| DUBAI, Sept 24
DUBAI, Sept 24 Iran launched a fresh bid on
Monday to stabilise its falling currency, opening a foreign
exchange centre that provides government-subsidised U.S. dollars
to import some goods as the country struggles with Western
The rial's street value has tumbled by more than half in the
last year because of U.S. and European sanctions against Iran's
oil and banking sectors, which have cast doubt on the central
bank's ability to defend its currency.
Iranians have rushed to informal money changers to convert
their savings into hard currencies, driving down the rial's
open-market value. This has raised the price of imported goods,
contributing to double-digit inflation.
The new foreign exchange centre allows importers of goods
including truck tyres, construction equipment and synthetic
fibres to buy dollars at a rate 2 percent cheaper than the
street rate at any given time.
The government plans to use revenues from petrochemical
sales and 14.5 percent of its oil revenues to provide dollars
for the centre, central bank governor Mahmoud Bahmani said on
Sunday, according to the newspaper Aftab. He did not give an
absolute figure for the amount of dollars to be supplied.
"With the distribution of currency in this centre, the
exchange rate in the market will go down, because some of the
demand (for dollars) will be met in this centre and the pressure
of demand will be removed," Bahmani was quoted as saying.
The dollar sold for 24,040 rials at the centre on Monday,
the Iranian Students' News Agency said, compared to about 24,600
on the open market at around the same time, according to
currency-tracking website Mesghal.
The foreign exchange centre is the latest in a series of
plans floated by the government in the last three months to
address a burgeoning currency crisis, for which legislative foes
of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have blamed his administration.
The government maintains an official "reference" rate of
12,260 rials to the dollar, but only a limited amount of foreign
exchange is available at this rate.
Iran's oil sales, its chief source of hard currency, have
plummeted this year as a result of the sanctions, and
legislators accused the central bank earlier this month of not
injecting enough dollars into the market, thereby contributing
to a fresh fall in the rial.
The foreign exchange centre appears to have replaced a
previous plan to establish a currency trading market, a proposal
that was fiercely criticised by the private sector, which said
the scheme would simply introduce yet another rate for the rial
and bring more chaos to the economy.