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Iran Snap Analysis: Watching The Currency Crisis

A week ago the open-market rate of the Iranian Rial was 24350:1 to the US dollar. This was an all-time low --- in February 2012, the Rial had dropped to 22500:1 before the Government and Central Bank intervened with threats to imprison currency traders, a raise in interest rates, an injection of foreign reserves.

There was a declaration that the open-market rate would be established at 15600:1. This was still almost 50% below the Rial's position in summer 2011, and a 25% gap from the official rate of 12260:1, but at least there would be "stability".

Or so it was hoped, as the Supreme Leader announced in March that Iran would pursue a "resistance economy" to defeat the enemies trying to bring it to its knees.

The hopes were eroded, as the Rial slid through the spring and summer, with occasional sharp drops, to its new historic weak-point.

But surely --- as the Central Bank announced last Sunday that a "trade room", supported by foreign exchange from oil revenues and National Funds, would provide subsidised dollars to importers of key goods --- this was the bottom? The Bank''s intervention would dampen demand for the foreign currency while propping up businessmen and ensuring necessary imports reached Iran.

No. Far from being strengthened, the Iranian Rial opens this morning on the open market at 29750:1, a fall of almost 20% since the Bank made its latest move. At one point on Sunday, it broke the 30000:1 barrier at exchanges in Tehran.

There are some analysts who have asserted that the correction in the Rial's level was necessary, that the currency --- supported by Government funds --- has been over-valued for years.

That evaluation misses the point. This fall is chaotic, confused, and without any sign of a strategy for recovery. While there are undoubtedly some well-placed people who are profiting from speculation --- especially if they can get the official rate and 2 1/2 times more dollars compared to the open market --- many Iranians will only feel the short- and long-term pain. There will be higher costs on top of a spiralling inflation rate, more falls in domestic production as imported components cannot be afforded, Iranian students abroad who will struggle to get by, families who will see the erosion of savings.

Can a "resistance economy", under the siege of mismanagement within and sanctions without, continue to resist?

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