Tyranny of numbers

Claims of rising poverty in Iran

Posted in Poverty by Djavad on March 30, 2009

“Give me a poverty scenario and I will produce the numbers to support it,” is a saying among those who work with poverty numbers denoting the flimsiness behind the science of poverty analysis.  In this season of presidential elections in Iran, a scenario much in demand is that poverty has increased under Ahmadinejad.   There are newspaper reports of research that offer evidence for just such a scenario (for examples, see reports in Persian here, here, and here), that seem influential but have not gone through the usual academic scrutiny.   A few months ago I commented on another high profile poverty report that appeared last year in a journal published by the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, using faulty methodology to show that poverty has increased.  A study by a serious researcher, Professor Davoud Souri of Sharif University of Technology in Iran, was published last week on the prominent Persian website Rastak which is dedicated to “free market economics”, is a notch above the rest in academic rigor and therefore worth a closer look. (more…)

Myths about Iran’s economy

Posted in Employment, Macroeconomy, Poverty by Djavad on March 26, 2009

Are living standards as poor as they say?

Western journalists who  travel to Iran get an earful of complaints about how bad things economic are.  The World Bank disagrees.  Iranian GDP per capita in 2007 stood at $10432 (in 2005 Purchasing Power Parity dollars), which is only one-forth that of the of the United States, and less than a thousand dollars below Turkey’s.  In terms of average growth rate of GDP per capita, Iran has actually done better than in the ten year period 1997-2007,  3.5% compared to 2.5% for Turkey. These numbers are readily available from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators website.

There is no shortages of complaints one can have about Iran’s economy (high youth unemployment, high inflation, and stagnant productivity, to name a few) , but a low standard of living is not one of them. (more…)