Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ramadan, Government and an Increased Demand

It is Ramadan, the month of fasting in Iran and the rest of Islamic world. Even in stores on Devon Street in Chicago one can see the food menu for this month: dates, coconut dates, milk, sweets and etc.
Given the fast lasts from dawn to dusk, the believers need meals rich in calories. Thus there is an increase in demand for meat, chicken, milk and in Iran for sweets such as Bameyeh and Zoulbia (soaked in honey they make any sweet tooth person happy and are the nightmare of those who care about their shapes). The demand increases and thus the equilibrium price rises. Under normal circumstances this would be a business cycle of market, but when inflation is passing 27% it is going too far for middle class and low income households in Iran.
In response to the price hike and in order to provide the populace by affordable food products, government has taken upon itself to distribute inexpensive chicken, meat and other products. Thus there are queues across the country for these products. The success of this effort is not known and hard to measure.
Government as a distributer of products and goods is an old image in Iran. The inefficiencies and failed experiences of the past have failed to pursue current administration to stop meddling in the market. With oil price at an all time high it is inconceivable for the government to think anything else but that it can face any challenge with a pocket full of cash. It also is inconceivable for the public not to be able to afford their basic needs in this holy month. But the truth is inflation is taxing Iranian households’ budgets. Government feels obliged to do exactly what it does to keep the public happy, no matter if it makes them to stay longer in queues.
However it seems government’s generosity with oil revenue and its funds is taxing veteran politicians’ patience. Many have been criticizing government’s frequent withdrawals from oil revenues. Most recently Dr. Rowhani a former Secretary of National Security Council charged by saying: “It seems some consider it their weekly duty to empty the coffers, a golden opportunity has been offered to us that it is lost now. What have been done with the oil money besides buying bananas and oranges?”
It seems time for more serious approach has come.

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