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EghtesadOnline: With the key promise of unifying the country's dual exchange rates lying dormant during President Hassan Rouhani's first term in office–despite frequent pledges to do so–the Central Bank of Iran's top policymaker says the issue has not been finalized and will be pursued during the administration's second four-year term.

The longstanding plan to adopt a "managed floating rate" failed due to what officials refer to as lackluster international ties. The setback disappointed the country's private sector and leading business figures who had hoped for a single exchange rate regime after the country had reverted to multiple rates when sanctions targeting the country's nuclear program intensified.    

"Based on our plans, the unification of foreign exchange rates will be implemented early in the new government," CBI Governor Valiollah Seif said in a late night interview with the state TV.

He and several other high-ranking officials had projected that the rates would be unified by the end of the previous fiscal year in March, following the implementation of Iran's nuclear accord with world powers, which promised vastly improved prospects for the Iranian economy, Financial Tribune reported.

However, as Seif concedes, it has taken much longer than anticipated for the Iranian banking system to reconnect with major international counterparts, effectively preventing the rate unification.

"We thought that following the nuclear deal, our banking ties would once again stand at a suitable level and we can unify the rates, but the plan is yet to be implemented because it has been delayed as a result of a lack of international ties," he said.

The CBI chief pointed to the position of Iran with regard to the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard-setting body on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism, which in late July voted to extend the suspension of active countermeasures against Iran indefinitely as it had done a year before.

Seif said the country is continuing measures in line with boosting conformity with FATF standards and predicted that the intergovernmental organization is expected to treat Iran better in its future meetings.

"While there is also a political factor in addition to the technical factor with regard to FATF decisions, our view is technical," he added, echoing past remarks by many top Iranian officials who have condemned lobbying by the US and a number of other nations for Iran to be kept on the blacklist of violating countries.


Seif, who also heads the Money and Credit Council tasked with financial decision-making, focused attention on the inflation rate, saying that in light of the fact that point-to-point inflation is experiencing a downtrend and will continue to do so for the next few months, "we will return to single digit inflation rates again".

While the inflation rate stood at 9% at the end of the previous fiscal year, it began to rise during the early months of the current year to go back up to double digits two months ago.

The CBI chief also referred to a major government scheme last year, which mobilized the banking system to allocate 178 trillion rials ($4.6 billion) to ailing small- and medium-sized enterprises.

He noted that the plan will continue this year with another 300 trillion rials ($7.9 billion) earmarked for SMEs while "an additional 200 trillion rials ($5.2 billion) worth of loans have been agreed upon with the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare with the aim of supporting job creation".

According to Seif, Iranian banks handed out a total of 5.48 quadrillion rials ($144 billion) in loans last year while their target for the current year to March 2018 was set at 6.71 quadrillion rials ($176 billion).

Shadow Bank Consolidation

The CBI governor also discussed in length the situation of uncertified credit institutions that had absorbed the deposits of thousands of people and created many problems for the banking system.

"The management brass at the Bank Mehr Eghtesad has done well and the lender is supposed to be merged along with Samen and Kosar credit institutions," he said.

Seif reiterated what he had announced days ago that with the last three illegal credit institutions sorted out, the saga of shadow banks has come to an end and referred to it as one of the major achievements of the central bank.

Uncertified institutions had proved a bane for the banking system as lenders were forced to pay higher interests on deposits to match their illegal counterparts.

As Seif noted, an unnamed institution was promising an interest rate as high as 84% to attract deposits.

While lenders now pay interests on deposits at 15% at present, the official pointed out that "about 50-60% of the assets of the banking system are frozen in the form of soured properties and non-performing loans".

Seif pointed to a significant discrepancy between the account of the banking system and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance on how much the administration owes the banks.

While the banking system claims 1.45 quadrillion rials ($38 billion) of arrears on the part of government, the ministry puts the figure at 870 trillion rials ($22.9 billion) by the end of the fiscal 2014-15.

Seif said the huge gap is because the administration has not calculated interest on the arrears or has come up with the figure for the debts at very low interest rates.


Hassan Rouhani CBI Central Bank of Iran Iran forex rates Iran exchange rates