Iranian lawmakers slam cost of living ‘tsunami’

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Lawmakers on Sunday sharply criticized Iran’s runaway cost of living as officials try to blame the former government for the economic crisis.

Lawmaker Alborz Hosseini warned the president and his economics team in a speech on Sunday about the rising cost of living. He called the daily rise in food prices a “tsunami” and added that rents were rising out of control. “It seems that nobody thinks about the vulnerable classes.”

“The food on people’s tables is becoming scarce day by day and cars have become a commodity they cannot hope to own,” Fathollah Tavassoli, another lawmaker, told parliament.

In his pre-order speech on Sunday, Speaker of Parliament Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf blamed previous administrations for inflation which, according to official figures, has now exceeded 40% and urged the government of President Ebrahim Raisi to take steps to control rising prices.

Ghalibaf is apparently still trying to shield Raisi from mounting criticism, but others say blaming the former government is simply not an answer to the crisis.

Raisi hasn’t been able to achieve much since last August when he took office, except for more clandestine oil exports to China due to less stringent enforcement. US sanctions by President Joe Biden’s administration. Raisi government officials boast of having doubled oil exports.

But many are now wondering why the surge in oil sales has made no difference to the economy. Government spokesman Iran newspaper said this week that oil revenues are being spent to offset part of the 4.7 trillion rial budget deficit inherited from the government of former President Hassan Rouhani.

The newspaper argued that “improving economic indexes solely through increased oil exports is not feasible as other factors such as liquidity growth also affect indexes such as the rate of inflation”.

President Raisi and his extremist supporters often overtly or indirectly blame Rouhani for the long economic crisis. Raisi said on Friday that “four years of inflation above 40% and a negative economic growth rate” were the main reasons for the price hike.

But few people dare to say publicly that the long economic crisis is mainly the result of the sanctions imposed by the United States on the Iranian nuclear program and that a new agreement is imperative to save the economy.

According to official figures, the annual inflation rate reached over 40% in the previous Iranian calendar year which ended on March 20. In the same year, the food inflation rate was even higher at 51%. The inflation rate has exceeded 40% only twice in four decades in the history of the Islamic Republic.

In his televised speech on the occasion of the Persian New Year on March 20, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei admitted that Iranians had faced “difficulties, high prices and inflation” in the previous year, but said it was not “realistic” to expect the problems to disappear quickly.

Experts say blaming the country’s multiple crises on Rouhani and will not resonate with the public, who understand that Raisi had eight months to impact the situation, and he failed.

In recent days, the Iranian media have strongly criticized the government because what they say is inefficiency and incompetence and has highlighted the rising prices of food products such as rice, meat and vegetables.

Locally grown rice, for example, has now become unaffordable for most families. According to data released by Iran’s Statistics Center (SCI), the price of various types of locally grown rice has tripled in a year and increased by around 11 percent in March alone.

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