Iran introduces tiered exchange rates for imports

DUBAI Sat Jul 21, 2012 7:41am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will introduce a three-tiered exchange rate system to purchase different classes of imports, state media reported on Saturday, in an indication that the government's stores of hard currency are coming under pressure from Western sanctions.

The Iranian rial has lost nearly half its value in the last year, after the West tightened sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Iran's oil sales, its chief source of hard currency earnings, have plummeted this year due to the measures, and it has had trouble repatriating currency earned from crude exports because of sanctions against its central bank.

Though the official government exchange rate is 12,260 rials to the dollar, there is only a limited amount of these cheaper dollars available, and the unofficial market rate at which most Iranians can access dollars is closer to 19,000 rials.

The government will provide dollars at the official rate to import "basic goods," and a rate of 15,000 rials to the dollar for "capital and intermediate goods," reported the Iranian Students' News Agency.

Luxury goods such as "cars and dolls" will be imported using dollars bought at the free market rate, which means their price will likely go up drastically inside Iran.

"There is no new plan for a change in the exchange rate," said Arsalan Fathipour, the head of the Parliament's economic committee, ISNA reported. "Our previous suggestion was that basic goods be part of the priority imported goods and use the (official rate), and the government has accepted this suggestion."

(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, editing by William Hardy)

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