More on Iran’s subsidy reform
This oped of mine on Iran’s subsidy reform appeared on the Brookings website on Thursday. Suzanne Maloney of Brookings also wrote a nice piece on the same program, viewing it as a possible solution to Iran’s economic problems, which is a fresh approach instead of the more usual view that we have come to expect from commentators in Iran and the West — as the harbinger of economic ruin. I think the program’s initial success to raise prices at one go without mass protests is noteworthy, and perhaps a model for other Middle Eastern countries to follow, but its overall success depends on two things: (a) whether consumers will use the cash rebate to pay their energy bills and buy local goods and services, like health and education, or spend it on luxuries imported from China, like LCD televisions; and (b) whether producers can manage to stay afloat, by hook or crook, without shutting down or laying off many workers, long enough for the economy to adjust to the new price levels. Both of these depend on complimentary economic policies that the government will introduce in the next few months to improve the business climate in Iran. As usual, reform of the markets for labor, credit and foreign exchange are at the top of the list for action.