Friday, 24 February 2012 10:56
TEHRAN - "If you stay here and look, you will find (people's) hands are bare. Shopkeepers are all complaining ... the incomes have decreased," Ali Reza sighed, watching bustling people walking past his dress shop in Tehran's Grand Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar, with a history of hundreds of years, is the commodities center of Tehran. It's a marketplace frequented by many Iranians and merchants where various types of goods are sold.
With tensions escalating over Iran's nuclear issue and increasing pressure being placed on the Islamic Republic, ordinary Iranians are suffering from the Western-imposed sanctions and struggling to pay rising living costs.
"Life has become very difficult. Since the (new rounds of) sanctions started, prices have risen and the U.S. dollar has appreciated (against Iran's currency rial)," Reza told Xinhua on Sunday, "The increase in prices has weakened the shopping capacity of people. "
"When people's purchasing power fades, businesses are affected," he grumbled.
Since September, Western countries have been slapping more and more sanctions on Tehran due to the latter's unwillingness to retreat over its suspected nuclear program.
The European Union (EU) last month renewed pressure on Iran by deciding to sanction Tehran's lifeline oil exports and central bank.
Harsh sanctions have caused a free fall of the rial's value against the U.S. dollar, which many Iranian businesses and manufacturers need for importing materials for production, and in return inflation rocketed.
In Tehran's street markets, one U.S. dollar on Monday was traded for 19,200 rials, while a year ago one U.S. dollar could only buy about 11,100 rials.
The prices of basic daily life necessities including food items have been soaring in the past months, with many of them rising by over 20 percent in the past two months. Inflation has become a topic hotly discussed by ordinary people.
"A sandwich, which is sold at 25,000 rials now, was worth 20,000 rials two months ago," Shekarchi, an Iranian working at a fast food restaurant, told Xinhua.
"When prices go up, the purchasing power of people will dent and they cannot do shopping as they like," Iranian lady Maryam said.
The specter of inflation has been worrying Iranians, as the increase in their salary could not catch up with the price hike.
In less than a year, the price of one kilogram mutton has risen from around 18,000 rials to 24,000 rials, and that of beef for the same amount has increased from about 14,000 rials to 18,000 rials.
"People do less shopping for their lives. They have reduced consumption of rice and meat. If you go to butcher shops, you can find meat is sold less than before," Reza murmured. "People have turned to chicken and other (less expensive) food items."
"One day, I went to buy meat when butcher shops reopened after a two-day holiday, and found the price of each kilogram meat had risen by 35,000 rials," Iranian girl Shahrzad told Xinhua. "We have to consume less (meat)," she added.
High inflation has resulted in some people's dissatisfaction with businessmen. "Due to sanctions, everything is getting expensive. The prices go up every day but unfortunately our businessmen don't care about (customers)," Ali, who works for a private company, complained, "they purchased the goods much earlier but sold them at current (higher) market prices."
Yet Iranian businessmen said they have their own reasons to raise prices.
"For sure, price hikes have affected people's lives greatly ... but in order to meet my daily life needs I have to sell at higher prices, since I bought goods at higher costs," explained a businessman who called himself Hamed.
"Life is too hard, too hard. The government should control (the inflation)," an Iranian who identified himself as Shaqaqi told Xinhua.
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