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Tehran Official: 'Tsunami' of Poverty Bearing Down on Iran


Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani (Entekhab.ir)

A municipal leader in the Iranian capital, Tehran, has issued a stark warning about Iran's economic problems, saying a "tsunami" of poverty is bearing down on society.

Iranian state media said Tehran City Council Chairman Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani made the comment in a Tuesday speech about urban governance in the capital.

He said Iran faces a crisis in the coming months as the U.S. prepares to impose even tougher economic sanctions on the country, a move that could further weaken Iran's currency, raise the cost of imports, fuel inflation and reduce people's purchasing power.

"Today, poverty is bearing down on society like a tsunami," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying. The Tehran municipal leader is the eldest son of late former Iranian President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Pressure for nuclear deal

Washington imposed sanctions on Iran's U.S. dollar-denominated financial transactions, automotive sector, and purchases of commercial planes and metals, including gold, earlier this month to try to pressure Tehran into a new agreement to end what the U.S. sees as its nuclear weapon ambitions. Stronger U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector and central bank are due to take effect in November. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

In his speech, Rafsanjani said Iranian authorities facing depleted budgets should not rely on their traditional approach of using social welfare bodies to deal with poverty. He said civil society groups such as families and nongovernmental charities are the only institutions that can enable Iran to withstand what he described as a coming storm of social exclusion.

In a Wednesday interview with VOA Persian, Iranian-American economist Siamack Shojai said he expected the next round of U.S. sanctions to cause the incomes of Iranians to drop to their "lowest levels yet."

"The dollar will be rationed even more than it is now," said Shojai, dean of the Cotsakos College of Business at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.

"It is even possible that the Iranian government will no longer be able to afford to import food from abroad, and ultimately, the people will have to be at the mercy of food rationing from the authorities," he said.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian service.

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