Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Half Iranian urban population under poverty line says report

I originally wrote this piece for Tehran Bureau which published it on March 4, 2011. 

44.5% to 55% of Iran's urban population lives under the poverty line, according to a new report entitled 'Measurement and Economic Analysis of Urban Poverty.'

The paper was presented by three senior government researchers at a conference organized two weeks ago by the national statistics center (Markazeh amareh Iran), under the aegis of several ministries, Tehran University, and the United Nations Population Fund. It was included in a compilation published by the conference, '50 Years of Household Economics,' and made available to the general public on Wednesday, reported the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA).

The study provides a rare statistical glimpse into the country's economic welfare, a topic generally treated with secrecy by the Ahmadinejad administration.

The authors, Mansour Kiani, Khalil Attar,and Jila Habibi, determined that at least 23.3 million city dwellers are under the poverty line and cannot subsist on their households' incomes. Iran's rural population was not included in the report.

The researchers found that the average poverty line for urban households with 3.7 members is 653,000 toumans (about $630) a month if normal goods are consumed. Tehran province had the highest poverty line, 813,000 toumans a month, while Qom province had the lowest with 523,000 toumans monthly. Using this gauge, 55% of the country's city dwellers are under the poverty line.

The average figure falls to 547,000 toumans a month if cheaper substitutes, for example chicken instead of red meat, are used. In this scenario, 44.5% of urban households live under the poverty line.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's governments, over the course of his two terms, have consistently refused to provide proper statistics concerning poverty, although the 4th Development Plan which was passed into law by the Majlis six years ago clearly requires that the Welfare Ministry issue regular figures concerning the poverty line (article 95.3).

'None of the laws state what should be done or indeed what use it is to know if the poverty line is 100,000 or 400,000 toumans,' then Welfare Minister Abdolreza Mesri told a television interviewer in January 2008. 'Calculating the poverty line is good for the country's planners, but telling the people that if you make 300,000 toumans, then you are poor, only creates mental issues for them and has no other use.'

Mesri's successor, Sadegh Mahsouli, has not been more cooperative. Mahsouli, an IRGC officer who has managed to become a multi-millionaire in between stints in various governments is known as 'Ba-Mahsouli' (roughly translated as bountiful). Before taking the reins at the Welfare Ministry, he served as Interior Minister in the previous administration and, as such, oversaw the 2009 presidential election.

On the eve of the subsidy reform vote in the Majlis, he told Jameh Jam daily last November that the poverty line did not 'have any meaning in our country,' but insisted that the bill being presented by the government would help the poor and 'make the meek more powerful.'

In February of last year, the Welfare Ministry took the curious step of denying the poverty line figure presented a week earlier by the Central Bank.

'Determining the poverty line is one of the duties of the Welfare Ministry, but this ministry has yet to fulfill its obligations,' Majlis representative Sirous Borna Boldaji, who is on the legislature's social affairs committee, told Farda News (close to Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf and not to be confused with Radio Farda). 'Previously it was said that the poverty line was 900,000 toumans, but it is currently being declared that it is 500,000 toumans. Meanwhile, the Welfare Ministry doesn't accept either one of these statistics.'

A lack of hard figures has not prevented government officials from maintaining an optimistic outlook. 'The measures taken by the ninth and tenth administrations (NB Ahmadinejad's first and second terms) have considerably reduced malnutrition and severe poverty in the country,' Seyed Abdollah Emadi, in charge of the poverty alleviation office of the Welfare Ministry, told Borna News in January of last year.

But the authors of the recent report see the outlook differently. 'The conclusions of the poverty model confirm the complexity of poverty and its institutionalization in urban society,' they write. 'It appears that poverty will continue to exist as a social and economic phenomenon, at least over the next ten years.'


  1. Hello,
    I've been following you work on Iran for some time now and I would like to speak to you directly about an article I would like to write on poverty and subsidy cuts. My name is William Yong and I am currently Tehran correspondent for the New York Times. If possible, add me as a friend on Facebook or ask Golnoush at TB for my email address.
    Hope to speak to you soon.

  2. Digital technology has amazingly boosted up human life and changes are so rapid that we cannot believe our past when we used to live so much dependent on times and schedules of KNN tv as now we have won our freedom through online tv. Though this technology is originated from west but the eastern countries are also importing it like hot cakes. Especially Muslim countries of the world like Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Middle East etc. are enjoying the online tv with their maxima. IT awareness in these countries is boosting up and people are adopting new avenues of virtual world. Computers have become an essential part of their lives and use of internet for education, fun and earning has been proved very useful in these congested and populous lands.

  3. Thanks for your grateful informations, I am working in, asian affairs news magazine.
    Try to post best informations like this always
    Global security: Avoiding the wars that never end

  4. Nice,
    Thanks for your grate informations, I am working on, ASIAN AFFAIRS MAGAZINE.

    Try to post best informations like this always

    Iraq: Legacy of broken promises and splintered vision

  5. Merry Christmas,
    You are so interesting! I don't believe I've truly read through anything like that before. So wonderful to discover another person with a few unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality! If you want to read merry christmas quotes for coworkers you have to see the link
    Thank you,

  6. Hi,
    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me as much as this particular one.new year messages to friends I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.