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Foreigners Are 'Looting' Iranian Markets - Economist


A street market in Abadan, the oil-rich Khuzestan province bordering Iraq. File photo

A prominent Iranian economist says selling essential goods to foreigners in Iran's border area markets is "looting" and should not be counted as "export".

"This is not export, it is indeed looting local people's essential goods by foreigners", Hossein Raghfar told the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) December 5, adding, to call the sweeping of people's essential goods by foreigners is a tragedy that cannot be mitigated by labeling it as "export".

Raghfar has lamented, "The government is dominated by businessmen, pseudo-private and semi-public institutions. It is the interest of the influential large groups that dictate the government policies."

The recent dramatic fall in the value of the Iranian national currency (rial), which started in March, before the reimposition of US sanctions last May, has attracted tens of thousands of Iraqis to Khuzestan and other border areas for “almost free” shopping sprees that have substantially increased prices for many goods, especially in cities in border areas.

The Iranian government indirectly subsidizes food and other essential goods by offering cheap dollars to importers.

Following large demonstrations against the influx of Iraqi visitors, the province’s representative to the influential Assembly of Experts, mid-ranking cleric Mohsen Heidari said on September 10, “The issue of Iraqis’ presence in Abadan and Khorramshahr [Khuzestan] needs a thorough investigation and should be resolved.”

Buying a chicken in Iraq costs six dinars, which amounts to 600,000 Iranian rials, Fathollahzade has noted, adding, “Whereas, an Iraqi can easily buy the same chicken for 100,000 to 120,000 rials in Abadan or Khorramshahr.

Describing the situation as extremely harmful and detrimental to Iran’s economy, a travel agent, Mostafa Fathollahzade has complained, “These Iraqis are not tourists since they do not buy an air ticket or book a hotel room. They do not spend any money at local cafes or restaurants. They just rush to the markets to grab cheap goods and leave.”

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