By Hossein Beizayi
Iran is a country that is situated on the western edge of Asia, where it spans an area of roughly 636,372 square miles. Iran’s economy, which according to the 2017 World Bank statistics, is heavily reliant on natural resources, is the second-largest in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2017, Iran’s gross domestic product value was roughly $447.7 billion. Some of the primary natural resources of the Iranian economy include oil, arable land, natural gas, agriculture, and minerals such as zinc and iron ore.
The news stemming out from many different local and international media sources, although different in their elaboration of the state of the economy in Iran, all signal one common message; the Iranian economy is facing its bleakest prospects in nearly two decades, with an almost unanimous forecast of low growth, high inflation, and continued double-digit unemployment. These worsening economic conditions, in turn, have placed considerable stress on the government’s internal politics, leading to gatherings, strike actions, protests, business bankruptcies, high unemployment, and inflation and encouraging further emigration and capital flight from Iran.
Structurally, Iran’s economy remains largely state-owned and controlled, poorly taxed, highly subsidized, hazardously reliant on crude oil export, non-transparent, and corrupt. The government and state-affiliated entities continue to own, manage, or control some 70 percent of the economy, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) making increasing inroads into such strategic economic areas as oil and gas, infrastructure, telecommunications, missile development, nuclear energy, and more with open hands.
To put it in simple words, all experts agree on one undeniable fact about the cause of the current state of the economy in Iran; the Iranian economy is grossly mismanaged. On top of biting external sanctions, the regime’s blatant and boastful disregard of economic realities, misguided populism, anti-capitalistic gestures, growing militarization, and colossal corruption have established a dysfunctional economic environment and are worsening the business climate in Iran. The public sector, plagued by nepotism and widely-publicized corruption, lacks competent managers, accountability, and competence.
Inflation has been an endemic feature since the revolution in 1979. According to reports, Iran’s current inflation rate is the highest in the region and arguably the third highest in the world.
Protracted unemployment is an important symptom of the weak business climate in any country. Iran’s official jobless data are highly unreliable, as numbers published by different government agencies differ considerably and are always on the low side. However, many estimate that the country’s actual unemployment rate hovers in the vicinity of 30%.
The decline in Iran’s economy, spurred by government corruption and destructive policies, has plunged the lives of many pensioners and retired government workers into utter poverty.
The rial, Iran’s national currency, has seen a huge dip in the past few years, losing more than 80 percent of its value. This has caused a spike in the prices of basic goods. Meanwhile, pensions and salaries have not been adjusted to this fundamental shift in the economic dynamics of the society. Under the current rates, most pensioners live under the poverty line, and their numbers are increasing.
The cities, towns, streets, squares,… throughout Iran have been the scenes of almost daily protests, sit-ins, strike actions, gatherings, and demonstrations by different sectors of the society whose patience has reached its intolerable level for the past few years. A host of such protests began in January 2017 in the form of a nationwide protest and have continued to present. The 2016 protest was cracked down on by the regime’s armed security forces resulting in several deaths and many wounded.
The November 2019 nationwide protests, the ongoing gatherings of the teachers, retirees, nurses, workers, cab and truck drivers, the Khuzestan protests for water in southwestern Iran and similar protests in the southeastern province of Baluchestan, and most recently, the November 26 protests by farmers in Isfahan central Iran for the revival of the dried out Zayandehrud River are all the result of the regime’s incompetence and its utter disregard for the welfare of the Iranian people.
With such vast natural resources, the Iranian people should not face this level of economic hardship and the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its regime is doing absolutely nothing to bring any relief to the people’s economic pains. On the contrary, the regime is spending most of the country’s resources and wealth to support its proxies in neighboring countries, to expand its terrorism agenda, to advance its ever-dangerous missile technology and nuclear technology capabilities.
The people of Iran are paying for the regime’s evil intentions, both inside Iran and internationally, with their lives and their miserable living conditions. The religious dictatorship in Iran has brought the state of Iran’s economy to the brink of total collapse and is solely responsible for more than 80% of the population living under the poverty line. The intensity and repetition of the recent gatherings and protests in Iran are indicative of the facts that the regime’s scare tactics have met a dead-end and despite all the government’s hollow promises, the show of force and intimidations, the desire of the Iranian people to stand up for their rights, to bring changes to their horrible living conditions and to push this regime to its fall is alive and well and becoming stronger every day. May this desire become a reality soon.