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Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Tales from Tehran: Our reeling rial.

The Rial is our official currency in Iran and commonly referred to globally – but Iranians typically refer to the “Toman” which is equivalent to 10 Rials.

As the political situation declines day by day in Iran, there is no stability in the economy. Most businesses and large factories are struggling to survive and increasingly are facing or entering bankruptcy. Sanctions are certainly squarely in the mix of precipitating causes but shortcomings in the way the economy is rationalized are also in the mix.

Most of the students in Iran are looking for a chance to leave the country as they are hopeless about their future in Iran for the next 10 years. Recall that the migration of young and qualified university students to persue their studies in Europe or North America has always been a controversial issue for the governments in Iran. As, successive Iranian governments have invested in, and educated, these people it is a loss to the country if they join the work force in developed countries. But in recent years we have seen a tremendous demand by the young generation to leave Iran and go abroad only because of the difficulties and uncertainties that they might face if they stay and live in the country.

The impact of the devaluation of the Rial on students seeking a foreign education, is hence, a subset of the overall economic situation. In other words, the worse the economy gets, the more students are looking to study abroad. But the greater the devaluation of the Rial which is concomitant to the economic difficulties, the more difficult this becomes. So many families are earning less, and that which they earn has dramatically lower buying power abroad.

The weak Rial has been accompanied by a cutting of the “subsidized dollars” for students looking to study abroad wherein students could buy dollars at better than the official rate. So, this can be seen as reflecting as government policy to better prevent from leaving Iran precisely its young well-educated generation.

The impact of the weakening Rial is not only on the decisions of those who were seeking to study abroad. Increasingly, students already studying abroad must return to Iran and leave their studies unfinished because it is not affordable for them to buy foreign currency at current rates to sustain their expenses. So, increasingly, for young Iranians aspiring to a foreign education, their dreams are being dashed.

From Higher-Edge Tehran Bureau. Reported by Mahsa Solhi, with contributions from Ali Solhi

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