Today, Supreme Leader Khamenei and the mullahs celebrated the 40th year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. With the exception of the Revolutionary Guard and “the beards,” as the hard core have been dubbed, few in Iran have much to celebrate. In the economic sphere alone, Iranians have been in a forty-year death spiral. And, let us not forget the estimated 750,000 Iranians who were slaughtered in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
Like the slaughter in that bloody war, the Iranian rial has been slaughtered, too. At the time of the Revolution, the rial fetched 70.5 per U.S. dollar. Today, it takes 122,500 rials to get a greenback. Thanks to the Revolution, the value of the rial has been decimated. The recent picture of the rial’s black market (read: free market) plunge is shown in the chart below.
With this crippling currency plunge, inflation has been a constant curse on the Islamic Republic. By using the IRR/USD exchange rate, which represents the most important price in Iran, I measure Iran’s inflation rate. Indeed, the black-market exchange rate can be reliably transformed into accurate measurements of countrywide inflation rates (for those who want to read about the methodology in Farsi). The chart below shows how, with the collapse of the rial’s value against the U.S. dollar, Iran’s implied annual inflation rate has surged to 164%. That is almost nine times higher than the official inflation rate of 18.4%/yr.
Another useful dimension for checking Iran’s temperature on a daily (if not minute-by-minute) basis is the black-market premium.
A 192% black-market premium indicates that Iranians were willing to pay 192% more for U.S. dollars in the black-market than if they were lucky enough (read: privileged enough) to obtain them at the official exchange rate.
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