Trade, foreign exchange, and energy policies in the Islamic Republic of Iran : reform agenda, economic implications, and impact on the poor
The Islamic Republic of Iran has committed itself to substantial trade and market reform in its Third Five-Year Development Plan. It started out with nontariff barriers on all products, a dual exchange rate regime with the market rate more than four times the official rate, and domestic energy subsidies equal to about 90 percent of the cost of energy products. Many of these policies were justified as helping the poor. To analyze the effect of the reforms, separately and together, the authors develop a multisector computable general equilibrium model with 10 rural and 10 urban households. They find that the combined reforms could generate welfare gains equal to about 50 percent of aggregate consumer income. These gains reflect the large initial distortions-for example, energy subsidies equal to about 18 percent of GDP, and retail energy prices equal to about 10 percent of world market prices. Separately, trade reform would lead to gains of about 5 percent of income, exchange rate reform to gains of 7 percent of income, and energy pricing reform to gains of 33 percent of income. The authors'results show that well-intentioned commodity subsidy policies for the poor can have perverse effects. Direct income payments to all households (not just the poor) would vastly increase the incomes of the poor compared with the status quo. Moreover, if the combined reforms were implemented, the poorest rural household would receive gains equal to about 290 percent of its income, and the poorest urban household gains equal to about 140 percent of its income.
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