January 4, 2022
Iran spent $9 billion in foreign currency to import mobile phones in 33 months, with a large portion going for “luxury” devices with a price tag of over $600.
A report by Tasnim news agency published on Monday said that over 45 million cellphones have been imported from March 21, 2019, to December 21, 2021.
According to Tasnim’s data, around one quarter of the money, or about $2.3 billion was spent on importing just two million luxury phones – mainly from the American brand Apple. This is less than five percent of the total number of phones bought by the people.
The report added that despite the government raising import duties for these luxury items from five to 12 percent this year, buyers spent more money to grab the expensive models. In the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year (starting on March 21, 2021), about $940 million was spent on high-priced phones, while the figure was $670 million for the previous year.
Buying such cellphones is too extravagant for most Iranians with ordinary nine-to-five jobs who are paid about $100 to $200 per month. However, there are a lot of Iranian officials and their family members who own the flagship models of Apple and Samsung, whose prices range from at least $1,000 to $2,400 in the Iranian market with the current exchange rate. With official government salaries, no official or Islamic Republic politician would be able to afford an expensive phone.
In comparison to the $9 billion of foreign currency spent on importing cell phones, the Iranian government spent around $15 billion during the same period to give cheap dollars to importers of food and medicines. President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration has decided to stop the indirect subsidy to save precious US dollars, but the rich and government officials keep spending more than $2 billion on expensive phones.
After the killing of Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike at Baghdad airport in January 2020, many Iranian officials issued statements and messages on social media from their iPhones, demanding the United States leave the region. Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab Hassan also owns an iPhone 13, which costs at least over $2,000 in Iran today.
A selfie she published over the weekend was picked up by Iranian social media users who began reposting it to make the point that the phone the daughter of the former Qods (Quds) force commander uses to demand retribution for the United States, is an iPhone – not a Chinese-made phone.