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Iran Tells Its People To ‘Economize’

Iran -- Mahmoud Vaezi is an Iranian engineer, politician, former diplomat and Minister of Communication in Rouhani's

Referring to Iran’s “very bleak” economic situation, President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff has asked people to avoid buying unnecessary goods.

“In the current economic situation and amid skyrocketing prices, the pressure on people has increased. We call upon the people to avoid buying goods more than they require,” state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) cited Mahmoud Vaezi as saying on September 5.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet session, Vaezi said, “We also call upon all merchants and shopkeepers to respect fairness in pricing their commodities.”

Since the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, in May and its re-imposition sanctions on Tehran, Iran’s economic situation has struggled with skyrocketing prices and in some cases shortages of essential commodities.

There have been reports on hoarding goods, including medicines, foodstuffs, and diapers.

On September 5, in a series of stories, MNA reported that six warehouses full of hoarded goods were discovered in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, southeastern Iran, while police found more than 2,500 cartons of cached diapers in the city of Qom.

The day before, MNA had reported on the discovery of two storage containers full of sanitary products in Tabriz and 15 tons of cached vegetable oil in Fariman.

Iran's rial fell to a record low on September 5 as worried residents of Tehran lined up outside beleaguered moneychangers, part of a staggering 140-percent drop in the currency's value since America pulled out of the nuclear deal only four months ago.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the U.S. moves economic "sabotage" this past weekend and specifically mentioned the diaper shortage. Some 70 percent of the materials for disposal diapers is imported. As the rial falls, it makes purchasing materials from abroad more expensive.

"Imagine that in Tehran or other major cities, baby diapers suddenly become scarce. This is happening, this is real, this is not make-believe. Baby diapers!" Khamenei said, according to a transcript on his official website. "This makes people angry. On the other side, the enemy wants people to be angry with the government and system. This is one of their ways."

As the Persian word for diaper (pooshak) rhymes with mooshak (missile), thousands of social media users seized the chance to deride Iran for boasting about its capability in the mass production of missiles while it is dependent on foreign countries for providing its diapers.

Vaezi’s latest comments indicate that, without the people’s assistance, the government will have a hard time tackling the country’s faltering economy.

“The Industry, Mines, and Trade Ministry’s duty, as well as that of the Governmental Discretionary Punishments Organization, is confronting those who violate the law” by monopolizing or hoarding goods, Vaezi noted. “Nevertheless, we have no plans to address the problem of skyrocketing prices through arrests and detention.”

Meanwhile, the head of the government's Budget and Planning Department told lawmakers on September 5 without elaborating that authorities have allocated $13 billion for commodities and medicine, with another $6 billion to help the poor, according to the parliament's website.

Earlier last month, the Rouhani administration had announced that on the basis of the government and Central Bank of Iran’s (CBI) package of forex policy, the price of 25 essential goods, including red meat, chicken, eggs, medicines, and edible oils, will be fixed at the official rate of the dollar ($1 for 42,000 rials) until March 21, 2019.

In the meantime, the second batch of what is expected to be the harshest part of U.S. sanctions on Iran, targeting oil exports and the banking sector, is scheduled to be implemented on November 4.