October 5, 2011 / 3:03 PM / 6 years ago

Iran sees enemies behind forex, gold price hikes

* Ahmadinejad says external, internal foes manipulating markets

* Analysts say gold, dollar price spikes linked to inflation fears

* Huge subsidy cuts have pushed up prices of food and fuel

TEHRAN, Oct 5 (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran’s enemies were deliberately causing the price of gold and foreign exchange to rise in a bid to undermine the Islamic Republic’s economy.

“The enemies and ill-wishers want to make a fuss and present wrong information to provoke and deviate the market,” Ahmadinejad told a crowd in a town in the western province of Hamadan, where he was on one of his frequent provincial visits.

“In order to disturb the market they buy a lot of gold coins with their huge amount of money ... they do the same in the foreign exchange market. But we have got enough reserves to meet all the country’s needs,” he said in the speech, broadcast live on state television.

The price of gold coins and foreign currency has risen sharply in recent months, a fact economists put down above all to fears that rising inflation is sapping the buying power of the Iranian currency, the rial.

A reduction in interest rates paid on bank savings has also prompted Iranians to withdraw their cash and place it elsewhere, while a new tax on gold coins has led many to favour foreign currencies over their traditional safe haven, gold.

International sanctions have made it harder to transfer funds abroad -- once a popular way for wealthier citizens to squirrel away cash.

But Ahmadinejad, famous for his anti-West rhetoric, said the price spikes were due to concerted market manipulation by foreign enemies and by people within Iran who sought to harm the economy.

“Some enemies and ill-wishers want to sour the sweetness of the great victory on the people’s palate,” he said.

Iran’s inflation rate has been rising steadily from a 25-year low of 8.8 percent hit in August 2010 and the International Monetary Fund has forecast it will reach 22 percent this year.

The main pressure on prices has come from Ahmadinejad’s policy, introduced late last year, of slashing some of the $100 billion of annual subsidies the state had paid out for decades to keep prices of fuel and food artificially low.

The policy was widely acknowledged as necessary to reduce the wasteful use of resources but economists warned it could unleash runaway inflation if it was handled badly.

Ahmadinejad said the subsidy cuts were responsible for some 5 percentage points of current inflation, which according to the latest available central bank data stood at 17.3 percent in August. He said inflation would soon return to single digits.

Ahmadinejad also put the weakened state of the rial down to Iran’s internal and external enemies.

While Iranians tend to think of the common green 10,000 rial -- or 1,000 toman -- note as equivalent to one dollar, the price of a dollar in exchange bureaus broke the 13,000 rial mark last week before the central bank took as yet unspecified measures to prop up the currency.

On Wednesday the official rate was 10,661 rials to the dollar, with the market price at 12,450, according to financial website Mesghal.ir .

“If this evil-doing and arrogance did not exist, the price of foreign exchange would come down. Right now one American dollar isn’t worth even 900 tomans in our economy,” Ahmadinejad said.

Many foreign economists think the rial is still over-valued by around 50 percent. (Writing by Ramin Mostafavi and Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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