Sanctions continue to hit Iranians in the pocketbook

A money dealer counts Iranian rial banknotes bearing a portrait of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, at an exchange office in Baghdad, Iraq.

Today in Geneva, U.S. delegates will sit down to negotiate with counterparts from Iran. Representatives from Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China will also join the two-day meeting related to Iran’s nuclear program.

To ratchet-up the pressure, the international community has implemented a series of tough economic sanctions. Over time, they’ve had a big financial impact on the average Iranian.

Those at the bottom of the economic ladder find it harder to eat.

“What you used to give to your family to fill them up was the little bit of meat, and lots of potatoes. Now even potatoes have become expensive,” says Hossein Askari, a professor of international business at George Washington University.

He says the price of potatoes has quadrupled in the last five years.

Inflation is rising. The value of Iran’s currency has fallen. And unemployment stands around 20 percent.

Suzanne Maloney studies Iran at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“Something like sending a student to university overseas, that’s now totally out of reach for anyone except for the extremely wealthy or the extremely well-connected,” says Maloney.

The middle-class is withering away.

But it’s a different story for Iran’s one percent.

“For the very wealthy in Iran, they’re not really affected at all because the things that they own -- expensive real estate in northern Tehran -- have gone up in value dramatically in the last three years,” says professor Askari.

He says the very rich in Tehran still spend as much as $20 - 25 million for a penthouse apartment.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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