By Pooya Stone
These days, the people of Iran bear intolerable economic pressures and many families cannot provide sufficient foodstuffs. Long ago, many citizens have fallen below the poverty line and now, they are scrambling to stay above the misery line. In other words, they struggle to remain alive.
In such circumstances, the minimum price of essential supplies rises every day while paychecks are fixed. Furthermore, many citizens have been bankrupted due to the government’s economic mismanagement and inattention to small businesses. In this context, unemployment numbers are skyrocketing.
On September 24, Arman daily pointed out a rampant increase in prices, severely affecting people’s living conditions. In its piece titled, “Families’ empty food baskets,” Arman reckoned that the current high-prices originated from the rise of the foreign exchange rate—dropping the national currency rial against the U.S. dollar.
“These days, a surplus pressure has been applied to working-class families. This pressure would be increased as much as these families have no longer capability due to empty food baskets and small product baskets. The poverty, the decrease in purchasing power, and the increase in social rift have reached a level that cannot be ignored easily,” Arman wrote.
“Currently, the food basket of a labor family of three has reached 76 million rials [$275] in Alborz province and 90 million rials [$325] in metropolitans. These numbers do not have any harmony with workers’ 26-million-rial [$95] paychecks. Laborers suffer from a 50-million-rial [$180] gap between their salaries and expenditures. In this respect, workers’ paychecks do not cover the costs of even ten days,” said Mohammad Sayyah, a member of the Labor Supreme Assembly managing board in Alborz province.
In the past, people—even the poor— were able to purchase bread, dairy, and eggs. However, given the high prices, these people have lost their purchasing power to provide even these basic goods. Removing these foodstuffs has placed the society on the horizon of emerging malnutrition among different classes.
“Each person must receive a daily use of 320g bread, 100g rice, 20g pasta, 26g beans, 70g potatoes, 280g vegetables, 48g red meat, 50g white meat, 24g eggs, 225-240g milk or dairy, 35-40g of oil, 40-50g carbohydrates and sugar,” a professor of food science explained about the calories an adult person needs based on a healthy food basket, according to Aftab News website on September 1.
Notably, a single person would need more than 10 million rials [$40] to provide such a food basket. This is while Iranian families are not at all capable of paying these costs. Moreover, the prices of these goods are continuously rising.
On September 24, Mardom Salari daily highlighted the economic weakness of working-class families in a piece titled, “Monthly salary of a worker is spent in less than ten days.”
“According to the Statistics Center, Iranian families’ expenditures have increased by 34 percent in the past 30 days. This increase imposes more costs on families in the non-official market and on the ground. With the current paychecks based on workers’ minimum wage, a labor family cannot provide for even ten days of a month,” the daily wrote.
After months of arguments, officials finally admitted to raising the workers' monthly wages from $114 to $146.
The ayatollahs refuse to raise Iranian workers' payment while they pay at least $1,500 to each foreign combatant who fights Syrian protesters to hold al-Assad in power. pic.twitter.com/4NsHogxBOi
— Iran Focus (@Iran_Focus) June 1, 2020
On the other hand, while many citizens face troubles in purchasing cheese, butter, and eggs as essential foodstuffs, talking about the consumption of red meat, chicken, and fish is likely a joke. For instance, up to June, the price of cheese was 400,000 rials [$16] per kilo. Now, Iranian families pay 800,000 rials for the same amount of cheese.
Remarkably, these are only a portion of the problems that families of employees and workers deal with. However, hundreds of thousands of people have recently been unemployed. Also, there are contract, temporary or seasonal workers whose salaries do not reach 10 million rials [$40] per month.
Hadi Abavi, secretary-general of the Higher Association of Labor Unions, in an interview with Mashreq daily acknowledged that just “bread and boiled potato” constitutes the “workers’ food basket.”
“If workers received their minimum paychecks, in the best conditions they could cover only one-third of their expenditures. When a worker cannot feed his family and fills his family’s food basket with bread and boiled potatoes, how can they purchase sanitizers and hygiene necessities, or benefit from proper nutrition?” he questioned.
“Also, many workers must attend workplaces due to their in-person careers. They produce sanitizing goods, foodstuffs, and other cargo that cannot be shut down. Is it possible to shut down bakeries or groceries? They are exposed to the novel coronavirus risk. And in such circumstances we are also witness rising unemployment and decrease in revenues,” Mashreq quoted Abavi as saying.
Furthermore, many people, including particularly young couples, must pay skyrocketing housing rents and this issue adds insult to their injuries. All the while, state-linked individuals and entities have shaped a housing mafia with millions of empty houses across the country. However, the majority of Iran’s population is in poverty, facing high-prices, unemployment, and displacement, while officials say the number of people who spend their nights on roofs, cars, graves, and caves is increasing in alarming fashion.
It is worth noting that these dire conditions are not summarized in working-class families. In the 2017 Presidential debate, the current Speaker of the Parliament (Majlis) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf implicitly declared that only four percent of the society benefit from proper economic conditions.
In other words, in 2017, 96 percent of Iran’s population faced economic dilemmas based on Ghalibaf’s remarks. Given official stats, this population has tolerated severe pressures during the past three years due to the rial’s devaluation, dropping oil prices in international markets, and the government squandering billions of national resources on terrorism, warmongering advancing ballistic missiles, and expanding nuclear projects.
In such circumstances, high-ranking officials and their relatives are ordering shark fin soup in Tehran’s luxury restaurants. The government gives them multi-billion-rial loans to import exotic fruits with special refrigerators. Chief of the Orchardists Union mocked the government’s counter-smuggling and contradictory policies says, “Certainly, expensive fruits are not imported by Kolbars [poor porters in Kurdistan province],” according to Channel Six TV on October 5, 2019.
This is while state security forces annually target hundreds of Kolbars, killing or injuring them mercilessly. Some of them are educated people who have been forced to make ends meet through excruciating jobs due to the government’s imprudence in recruiting their talents and capacity.
A significant number of citizens are also selling their body organs and even their newborn babies to pay their backbreaking expenditures. On the other hand, families face a growing rate of skyrocketing prices for essential necessities. These enormous financial pressures, along with systematic corruption and discrimination, have created severe distrust among the people.
“Let off Syria, think about us,” was frequently chanted by fed-up people in the latest round of nationwide protests. Now, Iranians seem to grasp that the government, neither “reformists” not “principalists,” are actually thinking about them. Therefore, they continuously launch rallies protesting the government and state-backed CEOs who merely line their pockets with the impoverished people’s meager savings. However, these protests will not remain small forever and the Iranian people’s “Nitrate of Disappointment depot” will explode soon.