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More signs of Iran’s nosediving economy

Steel factory workers protesting in front of the Governor's Office in Khuzestan province – [File photo]
Steel factory workers protesting in front of the Governor's Office in Khuzestan province – [File photo]

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, September 9, 2021—These days, Iranian regime officials and state-run media are using terms such as “explosive” and “unbridled” to describe skyrocketing prices in Iran’s markets, which are breaking the people’s backs.

Various footage posted on social media by the Iranian people are heart-rending, especially given that Iran is rich in resources: People going waist deep into large trash bins, looking for food; farmers crying out that they can’t provide for their families; labor children in the streets hawking goods and polishing shoes to make ends meet; and many more.

Iran’s economic problems are escalating to such an extent that many government-linked experts have dubbed them as “super-crises.”

"The state treasury is empty, and the budget deficit has reached 50 percent, according to a number of economists. Therefore, the government has no choice but printing money and increase the amount of liquidity to increase people’s salaries. Printing banknotes disproportionate to the growth of national production means rising inflation and soaring prices, a phenomenon that not only neutralizes the salary increase, but immediately makes wage earners poorer than before and still in need of significant increases in their salaries! ... This means, Iran’s economy becoming very much like those seen in Venezuela and Zimbabwe! Now, with this lurking dragon, government officials can voice whatever nonsense they want and pretend to be asleep!" reads  an August 31 report by the state-run Arman daily.

Iranian regime president Ebrahim Raisi had signaled the country’s economic calamity in his inauguration ceremony speech. “The people’s economic circumstances is not appropriate. The situation we are in, including the economy’s status quo, with inflation at more than 44 percent, 680 percent liquidity growth in recent years, government debt tripling since 2015, and many other issues that have affected people's lives, along with a 450 trillion toman budget deficits (around $16.7 billion),” he said on September 3, according to the state-run IRIB TV.

The regime's Labor Minister, Hojjatullah Abdul Maleki, acknowledged the "poor living conditions and low wages of workers and retirees" and the enormous class gap, adding that "the income and expenditure of these groups" was inconsistent with rampant inflation, according to a September 8 report published by the state-run Kar-va-karegar daily.

“Is it possible to reduce inflation easily and quickly? If the answer is no, how many years must workers surpass with the same meager wages and low purchasing power in order to finally be able to decently make ends meet become more colorful with inflation declining?” asks Mostafa Sharifi, a professor of economics in Tehran’s Allameh Tabataba’i University on September 8, according to the state-run Kar-va-karegar daily.

“The horrible inflation that we have had over the last few years has not declined in the past two years,” the daily quoted another economic expert in Iran.

“Inflation in Iran is structural and institutional. The rising number of state-linked monopolies, the escalating brain drain crisis, lack of a proper distribution system, hoarding and intermediation, profitable unproductive activities, efficiency disruption, economic policy instability and liquidity growth, all lead to growing inflation. Should all these different issues be ignored, and should we only focus on workers' wages, which if increased, will lead to even more inflation?” the expert added.

50 percent increase in dairy prices and decreasing purchasing power

The state-run Hamdeli newspaper published a report on Wednesday, September 8, covering the recent 50 percent increase in dairy prices, adding that the status quo has become so dire that dairy products have also been removed from people’s food baskets and the country’s lower class are losing their purchasing power more than ever before.

"The trend of increasing dairy prices in recent days has been such that six items in this group have witnessed prices hiking by more than 50 percent and even up to 120 percent compared to last year," the report explains.

“The average price of each liter of pasteurized milk in August 2020 was 72,000 rials (about $0.26). In July of this year, it has reached about 115,300 rials (about $0.42). One hundred grams of butter has increased by 121.5 percent compared to August of last year,” the report reads in part.

Oil and petrochemical industry workers continue strikes for 81 consecutive days

The economic decline is also manifesting itself in continued protests by different labor communities. Oil and petrochemical industry workers have been on strike since June 19, following their demands for increased wages and working days reduced to 20 days per month. Gradually more workers and employees of various petrochemical companies have joined their ranks.

On Wednesday, September 8, a group of oil project workers held a rally in front of the regime’s Majlis (parliament), marking the 81st day of their nationwide strike.

To this day about 30 contracting companies have agreed to accept the workers' demands and signed contracts with welders and fitters to increase wages and change shift hours. However, most of the project workers are continuing their strike.

These workers are demanding higher wages considering the fact that their current salaries do not cover their most basic needs. Oil workers are demanding a fair increase in their salaries under article 10 of the Oil Ministry law that went into effect this March.

Due to the oil industry’s difficult working conditions, especially in the operational areas, as well as the unbridled rise in inflation and daily costs, the increase in salaries does not in any way meet the oil industry employees’ necessities.

Protesters are calling for wage increases, elimination of middlemen contractors, resolution of contract workers’ situation, implementation of job classification laws, provision of climate benefits and changes in workers' contracts, and the equalization of wages.