Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh

Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh
The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh

Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh
  • The dollar was offered for as much as 215,500 rials, softening from 208,200 on Friday
  • The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars

DUBAI: The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the US dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday, as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and US sanctions.
The dollar was offered for as much as 215,500 rials, softening from 208,200 on Friday, according to foreign exchange site Bonbast.com. The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad’s website gave the dollar rate as 215,250, compared with 207,500 on Friday.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed sanctions that have since battered the economy.
A drop in oil prices and a slump in the global economy have deepened the economic crisis in the country, which also has the highest death toll in the Middle East from the pandemic.
The rial’s decline has continued despite assurances from Iranian Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati last week that the bank had injected hundreds of millions of dollars to stabilize the currency market.
The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars, fearing Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and sanctions could shrink vital oil exports and severely impact the economy.
The official exchange rate is 42,000 rials per dollar and is used mostly for imports of state-subsidised food and medicine.


Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown

Updated 9 min 22 sec ago

Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown

Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown
  • Foreign workers defy World Bank forecasts by sending home $32.9bn in first 10 months of year, an 18.58% rise on 2019

RIYADH: Expats in Saudi Arabia sent SR123.4 billion ($32.9 billion) in remittances to their home countries in the first 10 months of this year, a rise of 18.58 percent compared with 2019.

The surge in payments came as foreign workers in the Kingdom looked to support their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The growth is despite forecasts from the World Bank in April estimating that remittances to low- and middle-income countries would decline by 19.6 percent in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region this year as workers struggled to cope with the impact of the global health crisis.

Expat workers make up three-quarters of the 13.6 million workers in the Kingdom, with most coming from countries such as Syria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

Figures from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) showed that while remittances by expats in the Kingdom rose by 18.58 percent year-on-year between January and October, the biggest spike was in June when the monthly amount surged 60 percent compared with June 2019.

July also witnessed a rise of 32 percent, while August, September, and October saw monthly levels increase 24.7 percent, 28.5 percent, and 19.2 percent, respectively, compared with the equivalent months last year.

Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Riyadh-based financial services company Al Rajhi Capital, told Arab News: “Debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio in emerging economies has increased up to 70 percent recently, and the unemployment rate led by COVID-19 has also increased in countries such as India and the Philippines, which are the countries forming the majority of the expat population in the Kingdom.

“Therefore, we believe that increased remittances are due to rising unemployment and difficult economic conditions back in the home countries of expats.”

He said another reason why expats may have been sending more funds home was because their surplus income had increased as a result of being unable to travel or spend as much as normal due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Once the unemployment risks recede for expats in KSA, as well as in home countries, this level should normalize in our view,” Al-Sudairi added.

While the expats’ remittances increased in the 10-month period, the relative amount sent abroad by Saudi nationals declined by 17.5 percent to $12.58 billion during the same period, compared with $10.38 billion between January and October 2019.

Coronavirus travel restrictions were introduced in the Kingdom in March, leading to a 41.7 percent drop in funds transferred overseas by Saudi nationals in April compared with the same month last year. While domestic travel resumed in late May, funds sent overseas by Saudi nationals still fell 52 percent that month compared with May 2019.

FASTFACT

13.6 million

Expat workers make up three-quarters of the 13.6 million workers in the Kingdom.

Remittances briefly spiked by 17 percent in June, before reducing to declines again for the remainder of the year.

Al-Sudairi said that the drop in Saudis forwarding money out of the country was also due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

“This affected tourism and medical treatment-related remittances. Even the business-related remittances were impacted in the earlier months of lockdown due to negative confidence.”

He added that he was “expecting the trend to be better next year” once international travel resumed.

The World Bank, despite its pessimistic outline in April, also predicted that remittances would recover in 2021 and rise by 5.6 percent globally and 1.6 percent in the MENA region.

In a statement issued in April, Michal Rutkowski, global director of the World Bank’s social protection and jobs global practice, said: “Effective social protection systems are crucial to safeguarding the poor and vulnerable during this crisis in both developing countries as well as advanced countries.

“In host countries, social protection interventions should also support migrant populations,” he added.