As Iranians mark the end of Nowruz with its promise of hope and new life, the economic situation in Iran remains bleak. Three years into the term of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inflation is at nineteen percent, general unemployment is in double figures, with joblessness for youth estimated at twenty-one percent.
Although Iran is the fourth largest oil producing country in the world, the Iranian people are facing gasoline shortages and rationing. With revenue from oil sales, President Ahmadinejad has supported massive government subsidies for certain goods, such as sugar, wheat, gas and cooking oils. Many economists agree that the subsidies have led to increasing inflation, and have not helped to create jobs.
The poor in Iran are the main victims. Iranian economist Saeed Leylaz said, "Inflation is the killer of poor people. Hundreds of thousands of people will go under the poverty line because of the inflation rate."
At the same time, Iran is facing difficulties because of its refusal to comply with United Nations Security Council mandates to suspend its uranium enrichment program. The Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include restrictions on trade, freezing of some Iranian foreign assets, and the call to all countries to exercise vigilance in dealing with Iranian financial institutions.
In addition, the United States has taken measures to restrict Iran’s access to the international financial system in order to prevent Iran from using that system to finance its nuclear program and support terrorism.
President George W. Bush says the U.S. is concerned about the effects on the Iranian people of the choices being made by the government in Iran:
"We're always concerned about the individual. I’m concerned about the mom trying to raise her child in a hopeful environment. ... On the other hand, the people of Iran must understand that the conditions exist in large part because of either mismanagement by the [Iranian] government or isolation because of the government’s decisions on foreign policy matters."
The Iranian regime is pursuing policies that have made it very difficult for the people of Iran, says Mr. Bush. Iranian leaders, he says, have isolated a great country and are keeping the Iranian people from "realizing their true rights."