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Revolution at 40: Same old structural problems still plague Iran

While the Islamic Republic can pride itself on improvement on literacy and poverty, 40 years after its Islamic Revolution, Iran is still struggling with many of the structural deficiencies that plagued the country under the shah.
A money changer displays U.S. and Iranian banknotes at the Grand Bazaar in central Tehran October 7, 2015. To match Insight IRAN-BANKING/  REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. - S1BETSJMVNAC

Though some of Iran’s arch-conservative principals such as Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati have long argued that the now 40-year-old Islamic revolution was not about improving economic conditions, social justice and poverty eradication were common revolutionary themes. Observers broadly agree that socio-economic conditions contributed to the popular uprising in 1978-79. This analysis will briefly review some of the quantitative indicators that initially support that appraisal, but will focus more on comparing selected structural realities in the Iranian economy before and after the 1979 revolution.

A recent study of the Iranian economy over the past 40 years offers a number of relevant assessments. With regard to poverty, it argues, “While absolute poverty has been largely eradicated, relative poverty continues to be a real problem and has not been overcome.” Furthermore, in terms of income distribution, the study contends, “The upper income quintile still controls close to half the nation’s wealth, but its share has gradually declined slightly since 1990, benefiting minor gains in the lower three quintiles.”

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