The Iranian rial (sign: ﷼ ; ISO 4217 code: IRR) is the currency of Iran.
Although the "toman" (تومان tumân) is no longer an official unit of Iranian currency, Iranians commonly express amounts of money and prices of goods in "tomans". For this purpose, one "toman" equals 10 rials. Despite this usage, amounts of money and prices of goods are virtually always written in rials. For example, the sign next to a loaf of bread in a store would state the price in rials, e.g., "10,000 rials," even though the clerk, if asked, would say that the bread costs "1000 tomans". There is no official symbol for the currency but the Iranian standard ISIRI 820 defined a symbol for use on typewriters (mentioning that it is an invention of the standards committee itself) and the two Iranian standards ISIRI 2900 and ISIRI 3342 define a character code to be used for it. The Unicode Standard has a compatibility character defined. The Iranian rial was devalued in July 2013 to half its previous value as the government reduced subsidisation of the exchange rate against the dollar. In December 2016, the Iranian government announced the country's currency would be changed from the rial to the commonly used toman. Such a move requires the approval of the Iranian Parliament.
The rial was first introduced in 1798 as a coin worth 1,250 dinars or one eighth of a toman. In 1825, the rial ceased to be issued, with the qiran subdivided into 20 shahi or 1000 dinar and was worth one tenth of a toman, being issued as part of a decimal system. The rial replaced the qiran at par in 1932, subdivided into 2 shahi or 100 dinar.
Prior to decimalisation in 1932, these coins and currencies were used, and some of these terms still have wide usage in Iranian languages and proverbs:
In 1932, the exchange rate with the British pound was 1 pound = 59.75 rials. This changed to 80.25 in 1936, 64.350 in 1939, 68.8 in 1940, 141 in 1941 and 129 in 1942. In 1945, Iran switched to the U.S. dollar as the peg for its currency, with 1 dollar = 32.25 rials. The rate was changed to 1 dollar = 75.75 rials in 1957. Iran did not follow the dollar's devaluation in 1973, leading to a new peg of 1 dollar = 68.725 rials. The peg to the U.S. dollar was dropped in 1975.
In 1979, 1 rial equaled $0.0141. The value of Iran's currency declined precipitously after the Islamic revolution because of capital flight from the country. Studies estimate that the flight of capital from Iran shortly before and after the revolution is in the range of $30 to $40 billion. Whereas on 15 March 1978, 71.46 rials equaled one U.S. dollar, in July 1999, 9,430 rials amounted to one dollar.
Injecting sudden foreign exchange revenues in the economic system forms the phenomenon of "Dutch disease" in a country. There are two main consequences for a country with Dutch disease: loss of price competitiveness in its production goods, and hence the exports of those goods; and an increase in imports. Both cases are clearly visible in Iran. The solution is to direct the extra revenues from oil into the National Development Fund for use in productive and efficient projects.
Although described as an (interbank) "market rate", the value of the Iranian rial is tightly controlled by the central bank. The state ownership of oil export earnings and its large reserves, supervision of letters of credit, together with current - and capital outflow account - outflows allows management of demand. The central bank has allowed the rial to weaken in nominal terms (4.6% on average in 2009) in order to support the competitiveness of non-oil exports.
There is an active black market in foreign exchange, but the development of the TSE rate and the ready availability of foreign exchange over 2000 narrowed the differential to as little as IR100 in mid-2000. However the spread increased again in September 2010 because channels for transferring foreign currency to and from Iran are blocked because of international sanctions.
Monetary policy is facilitated by a network of 50 Iranian-run forex dealers in Iran, the rest of the Middle East and Europe. According to the Wall Street Journal and dealers, the Iranian government was selling $250 million daily to keep the Iranian rial exchange rate against the US dollar between 9,700 and 9,900 in 2009. At times (before the devaluation of the rial in 2013) the authorities weakened the national currency intentionally by withholding the supply of hard currency to earn more rial-denominated income, usually at times when the government faced a budget deficit.