Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi certainly has a multitude of supporters, but are they human? They seem to be more like robots, lemmings doing what they’re told and toeing the party line, as it were. While the nation is mired in worsening inflation and sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other Western powers take their toll, Raisi has decided to press his foot on the necks of the Iranian people.
He is set to do this by cutting back on subsidies, the same subsidies that have helped the poorest citizens, those struggling just to survive get enough to feed their families, make it to work, and essentially survive through this economic turmoil. Raisi’s argument is that the subsidies are subjected to too much fraud and by altering the system, the government will be better able to manage how much each Iranian can receive.
Currently, nearly half of the 82 million citizens of Iran live in poverty. When you take into account the fact that unemployment is ‘reported’ at about 11 percent, it begs the question: why can working Iranians afford the most basic of necessities?
A significant component of the answer lies in sanctions that Iran has faced for years, mostly driven by U.S. pressure. While President Biden has promised to reenter the nuclear agreement former President Trump withdrew from, it hasn’t happened. Iran has been meddling in the foreign affairs of too many other countries, most notably Iraq, and despite an ongoing propaganda machine attempting to deflect attention from these acts, global attention has made it uncomfortable for the Biden administration to pursue this agreement currently.
Meanwhile, the Iranian citizens continue to suffer and on the first anniversary of President Raisi’s victory, many took to the streets to protest. They are demanding better wages, raises in their pensions, and the ability to live above the poverty line while working full-time careers. Now, to add insult to injury, Raisi’s plan to trim subsidies and digitize the entire system is showing the people how little he truly cares.
It’s not a real surprise, either, given that voter turnout in last year’s election was the lowest it had been since 1979. There was little interest in promoting Raisi to President, but it was really a choice between one rotten apple and poisoned ones. Now the people are wondering if they had both been poison from the start.
Average blue collar workers in Iran have seen not only their salaries diminish with the subsidy reforms, but also prices have continued to rise. The solution Raisi puts forth is that citizens can purchase food and gas and other basic necessities at the subsidized price, but if they need more, they’ll have to pay full market value for them. It’s no longer ‘fair’ market value in Iran, but whatever the markets determine something is worth, even if it prices out half the population.
One man, Ali, commented about how half his business as a butcher has disappeared since the subsidy reform went into effect. The 50-year-old noted that, even though he’s a butcher, he’s gone weeks without any meat, all because prices have simply gone up too much too fast. Since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018, prices have soared 30 percent each year, and now it’s only getting worse. Now, with the sudden jump in inflation globally, the problems are only being compounded.
Of course, the Iranian government is strapped for cash, so it looks to solutions to free up money, and while cutting subsidies is the easy answer for the elite in power, the larger question is why it doesn’t simply cut back on its Quds Force and the continual efforts it makes to undermine other nations, like Iraq and Yemen?
The government didn’t have much choice, though, when it cancelled the preferential rate of 42,000 rials to the dollar. This had been implemented in 2018 to combat black market prices and gouging the citizens. However, because of its cash flow problem, it can no longer do that, and as a result prices have skyrocketed. Chicken and milk prices have doubled. Cooking oil prices have gone up four times. Spaghetti has tripled. All that since just the beginning of May, and the people are feeling every ounce of its weight.
Raisi had touted his aim to reform the subsidies and promised that bread, fuel, and medicine prices would not be affected. The reform has done nothing to stem the black market prices and while Iranians are able to get bread, many can’t afford rice or spaghetti or other basic necessities.
It’s a shame that some in the media and too many in government have praised Raisi for his reforms, but in the real world where 99.9 percent of the people actually live, it’s been a disaster, and the nightmare is only just beginning.