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Central Bank of Iran

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Central Bank of Iran

Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran
بانک مرکزی جمهوری اسلامی ايران
Logo Headquarters in Tehran
Headquarters Tehran, Iran
Established 1960[1]
Ownership entirely Government owned[2]
Governor Valiollah Seif
Central bank of Iran
Currency Iranian rial
ISO 4217 Code IRR

The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI) (Persian: بانک مرکزی جمهوری اسلامی ايران‎, Bank Markazi Jomhouri Islami Iran) is the central bank of Iran. It is entirely government owned.[2] Among its major purposes are: maintenance of the value of the national currency, balance of payments as well as facilitating trade transactions and contributing to the economic advancement of the country.[2]

The Central bank is in charge of laying and implementing monetary and credit policies of the country. Laying exchange policies and determining exchange rates are among the functions of Bank Markazi. The Iranian central bank is also the worlds number one sponsor of terrorism funding various Islamic groups to attack the United states and the entire Western World. The importation of goods, issuance of documentary credits and registration of orders for documentary bills of exchange for imports are also done in accordance with the policies of the Central Bank. It is a member central bank of the Asian Clearing Union.


During the Achaemenid era, trade boomed and subsequently banking operation expanded to an extent that Iranians managed to learn the banking method from the people of Babylon.[3]

The first attempt at introducing paper currency in Iran occurred during the Mongol Ilkhanate of the 13th century CE. The innovation, developed in Song Dynasty China, did not take hold in Iran, and paper currency did not return to Iran in any significant manner for several centuries.[4]

Modern era

In modern banking, the British first opened the Imperial Bank of Persia in 1889, with offices in all major cities of Persia and India. It was established in 1885 with a concession from the government of Persia to Baron Julius De Reuter, under a Royal charter from Queen Victoria.[3]

To compete with the British bank, Imperial Russia also opened the Russian Loan and Development Bank.[5]

The first state owned Iranian bank, Bank Melli Iran was established in 1927 by the government of Iran.[6] The bank's primary objective was to facilitate government's financial transactions and to print and distribute the Iranian currency (rial and toman). For more than 33 years, Bank Melli Iran was acting as the central bank of Iran with the responsibility to maintain the value of Iranian rial.

In August 1960, the Iranian government established the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and separated all central banking responsibilities from Bank Melli Iran and assigned it to the newly formed central bank.[7]

The Central Bank of Iran was renamed to "the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran" immediately after the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Scope and responsibilities of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI) have been defined in the Monetary and Banking Law of Iran.[8] CBI has been blacklisted by the U.S. government due to the bank's involvement in the Iranian nuclear program.[9]

CBI maintains a museum of historic and ancient jewelry owned and used by the ex-kings of Persia. This museum houses the Imperial Crown Jewels and is one of the most appealing tourist attractions in Iran.

Money and Credit Council

The Money and Credit Council (MCC) is the highest banking policy-making body of Bank Markazi. Its permanent members include the CBI Governor, the Finance and Economy Minister, two Ministers chosen by the Cabinet, The Head of the Chamber of Commerce, the General Prosecutor and two lawmakers (MPs).[10][11]

Each year, after approval of the government’s annual budget, the CBI presents a detailed monetary and credit policy to the MCC for approval. Thereafter, major elements of these policies are incorporated in the five-year economic development plan.[12]

The Iranian Central Bank needs more independence from the government in order to combat inflation, according to the country’s Parliament Research Center.[13] As of 2010, Iran’s Central Bank, is not able to conduct a “proactive” monetary policy and has no control over the government’s fiscal policy.

General Assembly

The current combination of the Central Bank's board of directors are the President, Economy and Commerce Ministers, Deputy-President for strategic planning, and a Minister selected by the Cabinet.[14]

"Reform" proposal

Seven economists with at least 15 years of work experience were to become members of the general assembly according to a new law proposed by the Majlis in 2010, thus moving this body from being state-dominated to one where the private sector has greater say in the decision making process. Tenure of each member would be for 10 years and only for one term.[15][16] The President of Iran has stressed that it is important for the Central Bank of Iran not to fall under private control, since it would not benefit the Iranian people.[17]

Governors of the Central Bank of Iran

The President of Iran proposes a person as the governor of CBI, who must be verified by the general assembly and appointed as per a presidential decree.[15] The governors of Central Bank of Iran are as follows:[18]

Governor Term
Ebrahim Kashani 1960–1961
Ali Asghar Poor Homayoon 1961–1964
Mahdi Samii 1964–1969
Khodadad Farmanfarmayan 1969–1970
Mahdi Samii 1970–1971
Abdolali Jahanshahi 1971–1973
Mohammad Yeganeh 1973–1975
Hassan-Ali Mehran 1975–1978
Yoosef Khoshkish 1978–1979
Mohammad Ali Molavi (acting)
Alireza Nobari 1979–1981
Mohsen Nourbakhsh 1981–1986
Majid Ghasemi 1986–1989
Mohammad Hossein Adeli 1989–1994
Mohsen Nourbakhsh 1994–2003
Mohammad Javad Vahhaji (acting)
Ebrahim Sheibani 2003–2007
Tahmasb Mazaheri 2007–2008
Mahmoud Bahmani 2008–2013
Valiollah Seif 2013–

Objectives and functions

The objectives of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran as per its charter and according to section 10 of the are as follows:

To achieve the objectives as stated in the MBAI, CBI is endowed with the responsibility of fulfilling the following functions:[19]

  • Issuance of notes and coins
  • Supervision of banks and credit institutions
  • Formulation and regulation of foreign exchange policies and transactions
  • Regulation on gold transactions
  • Formulation and regulation on transactions and inflow/outflow of Domestic currency

Islamic banking

After the Islamic Revolution, the Central Bank was mandated to establish an Islamic banking law. In 1983 the Islamic Banking law of Iran was passed by the Majlis.[20] According to this law, Iranian banks can only engage in interest-free Islamic transactions (interest is considered as usury or riba and is forbidden by Islam and the holy book of Qur’an). These are commercial transactions that involve exchange of goods and services in return for a share of the assumed "profit".

Iran uses what are officially termed "provisional" interest rates, as rates paid to depositors or received from borrowers should reflect the profits or losses of a business.[21] Under these rules, deposit rates, known as "dividends", are in theory related to a bank's profitability. In reality, however, these dividends have become fixed rates of return—depositors have never lost their savings because of losses made by the banks and almost never received returns larger than the provisional ex-ante profit rates. Interest charged on loans is presented as "fees" or a share of corporate profits.[22]

All such transactions are performed through Islamic contracts, such as Mozarebe, Foroush Aghsati, Joale, Salaf, and Gharzol-hassane. Details of these contracts and related practices are outlined in the Shiite version of Islamic commercial laws. Iran’s banking system adheres to Islamic rules that prohibit earning or paying interest.

Shariah-compliant assets has reached about $400 billion throughout the world, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, and the potential market is $4 trillion.[23][24] Iran, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are at the top with the biggest sharia-compliant assets.[25]


Critics believe that the Iranian Interest-Free banking law has simply created the context for legitimizing usury or riba. In reality all banks are charging their borrowers a fixed pre-set amount at a rate of interest that is approved by the Central Bank at least once a year. No goods or services are exchanged as part of these contracts and banks rarely assume any Commercial Risk. High value collateral items such as real estate, commercial paper, bank guarantees and machinery eliminate any risk of loss. In case of defaults or bankruptcies, the principal amount, the expected interest and the late fees are collected through possession and or sale of secured collaterals.[22]

Payment systems

In 2005, the government obliged the Central Bank of Iran and the Iranian banks, mostly state owned, to set up all the necessary infrastructures (regulatory, hardware, software) for fully launching e-money in Iran by March 2005. While this plan has not yet fully materialised, local debit/credit cards are now commonplace and have removed the main obstacle to the growth of e-commerce (in the national scale) as well as the full roll out of e-government initiatives.[26]

The Central Bank has developed the Real Time Gross Settlement System (SATNA) as the main center for settlement of Iranian banks' transactions in rial. Upon implementation of the first and second phases of this system in 2006/07, real time settlement through the interbank information transfer network (Shetab Banking System) and interbank clearing house was started in the review year. Since 2007/08, bank-to-bank and customer-to-customer payments were also settled through SATNA. The Retail Funds Transfer System (SAHAB), launched at end-2006/07 for real time transfer of a large volume of payments of relatively small value, was further developed in 2007/08. Moreover, there are further plans to connect Iran's SHETAB to information transfer networks of other countries.

In 2011 2 new payment systems were launched: Scripless Securities Settlement System (TABA) as the electronic infrastructure for placement and settlement of various securities, including governmental and CBI participation papers. The launching of the automated clearing house system (PAYA) for processing individual and multiple payment orders, connection of Iran's Interbank Information Transfer Network (SHETAB) to other ATM and POS switch systems for the acceptance of international bank cards, designing of the electronic card payment system (SHAPARAK) for the centralization and reorganization of POSs.[27]


As of January 21, 2010 account holders will no longer be allowed to withdraw more than $15,000 from Iranian banks but they can still write checks for larger amounts. The government wants people to use bank checks and electronic banking systems instead of cash transactions.[28] The proportion of cheques bouncing rose to about 10.7% in 2009.[29]

Debit/credit cards

In 2007, Tetra-Tech IT Company announced that using Visa and MasterCard is now possible for online sales and in Iranian e-card terminals at shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies for Iranians and foreign tourists.[30] Iran's electronic commerce will reach 10 trillion rials ($1 billion) by March 2009.[31]


Main article: Hawala

Many Iranian businesses and individuals also rely on hawala, an informal trust-based money transfer system that exists in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. Since the imposition of recent U.S. and UN financial sanctions on Iran, the use of hawala by Iranians reportedly has increased.[32]

Anti-money laundering law

The Central Bank of Iran is enforcing the

Key statistics

As of 2010, major

GDP growth

  • According to Business Monitor International (BMI) in 2010, growth will average 3.6% between 2009/2010 and 2013/2014.[37][38] This is substantially below an estimated 5.6% for previous 5 years.[37]
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts Iran's economy will grow 1.6% in 2010 and 0% in 2011, from 1.1% in 2009 and 1% in 2008 and 7.8% in 2007.[39][40] Through the successful implementation of the Iranian Economic Reform Plan (targeted energy subsidy plan in particular), the IMF predicts Iran's economy to grow at a rate of 8% by 2014/2015.[41][42]
  • Projections by the Economist in 2010 place Iran's nominal GDP at $701.9 billion in 2013.[43][44] The Economist's 2010-revised projections for GDP growth in Iran are: 3.0% (2010); 3.0% (2011); 2.9% (2012); 3.1% (2013); 2.9% (2014); 2.9% (2015).[45]

Money supply and inflation

Lending rates

In 2010, "Iran Credit Rating Consulting Company" became Iran's first credit agency by decree of the CBI.[52]

  • Commercial banks' lending rate: 12.0% (2007), 11.5% (2008), 12.0% (2009).[53] Free market rate is 24-25 percent (Aug 2009).[54]

Exchange rates

  • Average exchange rates: rials per US dollar - 10,800 (2011 est.), 10,308 (2010), 9,900 (2009), 9,143 (2008), 9,408 (2007), 9,227 (2006), 8,964 (2005), 8,885 (2004), 8,193 (2003)[55]
note: Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002.
Pre-unification, rials per US dollar:
Market: 8,200 (2002), 8,050 (2001), 8,350 (2000)[56]
Official: 6,906 (2002), 1,753 (2001), 1,764 (2000)[57]

Banking balance sheets

  • Debt: The government's and banks' debts to the central bank dropped from 905,926 billion Rials (about 90 billion Dollars) in November 2008 to about 776,486 billion Rials (about 77 billion Dollars) in November 2009. According to CBI reports, the value of its assets fell by 11.6 percent during the last 12 months to 1,137,455 Rials in November 2009.[58] Meanwhile, the total debt of 11 state-run banks alone to the Central Bank of Iran has exceeded $32 billion in 2009, showing a 10-fold increase over the past four years. Bank Melli Iran, with nearly $9 billion, had the biggest debt followed by Bank Sepah, Iran's oldest, with about $4.8 billion. Bank Maskan, Keshavarzi Bank, Bank of Industry and Mines and the Export Development Bank of Iran were next with the respective debts of $4.7, $4.1, $3.5 and $1.1 billion. Private-sector banks had much lower debts. Bank Parsian, the largest private-run bank, owed about $421 million to the Central Bank. In addition, the collective debt of state-sector companies to the Central Bank has reached $25 billion (2009).[59]
  • Overdue loans: According to unofficial figures, overdue loans have reached IR175,000bn ($17.8bn, €13.6bn, £11bn), an increase of 75 per cent over three years (November 2008).[60] Plan to inject about $13 billion to recapitalize the banking sector (2008)[61] Ninety individuals have managed to secure collective facilities totaling $8 billion from Iranian banks, with previous $27 billion unpaid loans (2009).[54] In October 2009, Iran's General Inspection Office informed that Iranian banks have some USD 38 billion of delinquent loans, while they are only capitalized at USD 20 billion. Current average for late debts of Iran's state banks is over 15 percent while the global standard is 3 to 5 percent.[62]

Foreign reserves

  • Composition:
In 2007, 10% of the reserves were held in gold, 20% in US dollars (down from 40% in 2006), the rest mostly in Euro and other major currencies (i.e., Yen, British Pound and the Swiss Franc).
In 2009, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the replacement of the US dollar by the euro in the country's foreign exchange accounts because "it would help decouple Iran from the US banking system."[66]
In October 2010, Iran's gold reserves hit "record high" as the Central Bank took "preventive measures" to avoid a possible asset freeze by Western countries.[67] In 2009, when the gold price was on average $656 per once, a "few hundred tons" of gold were imported, IRNA quoted CBI Governor Mahmoud Bahmani. "At present, the price of each ounce of gold is $1,230. Consequently, the value of the national reserves has risen by a few billion dollars" he said. Iran has changed 15% of its foreign exchange reserves into gold as the number is 1.7% for countries such as India and China (see also: U.S. sanctions against Iran.)[68]
In January 2012, the head of Tehran's Chamber of Commerce reported that Iran had 907 tons of gold, purchased at an average of $600 per ounce and worth $54 billion at today's price.[69][70] The CBI governor however reports only 500 tones (i.e. above ground gold reserves).[71] The discrepancy is unexplained but the 907 tons could (mistakenly) include below-ground gold reserves (320 metric tons as of 2012) and possibly the Iranian Crown Jewels or the gold in Iranian private hands (~100 tons in coins, jewelry or bullion).

Oil revenues

  • This amount is broken down as follows:
  1. $35 billion in imported goods (2005–2009),
  2. $25 billion in oil revenues (2005–2008),[73]
  3. $2.6 billion in non-oil export revenues,
  4. $3 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
This is a large number as it is equal one-tenth of Iran's total oil revenues since the 1979 revolution.
Oil Stabilization Fund (OSF) and National Development Fund

In October 2000, the parliament approved establishment of the Oil Stabilization Fund (OSF).[12]

  • A new fund will replace the Oil Stabilization Fund in 2011 called the National Development Fund.[76] Based on Article 84 of the Fifth Five-year Socio Economic Development Plan (2011-2015), the National Development Fund was established to transform oil and gas revenues to productive investment for future generation. The money will increasingly be deposited in domestic banks.[76][77] Accordingly, 20% of oil income is to be transferred to the National Development Fund. The new fund is to extend 50% of its financial facilities to private, cooperative and non-governmental sectors and 20% to promote foreign investment.[78][79][80] It is foreseen that the Development Fund will reach $30 billion by March 2012.[81]

Foreign exposure and transactions

  • Iran's foreign debt: $22.07 billion in 2010 ($10.6 billion of short-term debts and $11.4 billion of mid-term and long-term debts).[82]
  • Iran's deposits in foreign banks: stand at $35 billion while its obligations amount to $25 billion (2007).[83] In 2007, Iran had $62 billion worth of assets held abroad.[84] According to the Bank for International Settlements, Iran's deposits with 39 world banks reached $15.44 billion at the end of March 2012 while its obligations stood at at $10.088 billion.[85] In addition it was reported that Iran had between 10-20 billion dollars held in foreign banks in 2011, allegedly because of payment problems by foreign companies to Iran.[86][87] According to E.U. sources, despite the European sanctions, Iran has still "several billion euros" deposited in accounts in Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain, Greece and Switzerland (2012).[88] As at 2013, only $30 billion to $50 billion of its foreign exchange reserves (i.e. roughly 50% of total) is accessible because of the international sanctions.[89]
  • Transactions: Foreign transactions with Iran amounted to $150 billion between 2000 and 2007 worth of major contracts and both private and government lines of credit.[90] According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the balance of Iran’s foreign exchange interactions in foreign banks and financial institutes during Q3 2008 stood above $24.3 billion.[91]

Inflation and monetary policy

Double digit inflation rates have been a fact of life in Iran for the past 20 years. Between 2002 and 2006, the rate of inflation in Iran has been fluctuating between 12 and 16%.[46]

Monetary policy in Iran has not been successful in meeting the inflation and monetary targets set in the Iranian Five-Year Development Plans, owing mainly to the monetary impact of government spending out of oil revenue. Although the attainment of the inflation targets has improved somewhat recently, the objective of a gradual disinflation to single-digit levels has not been achieved. Moreover, the implicit intermediate target of monetary policy, money growth, has been systematically missed.[95]

The Central Bank is an extension of the Iranian government and as such it does not operate independently. Interest rate is usually set based on political priorities and not monetary targets. There is little alignment between fiscal and monetary policy.

The Central Bank assesses the inflation rate with the use of

High levels of inflation have also been associated with a growth in Iran's money supply. The Central Bank's data suggest that the money supply growth has been about 40% annually. The rapid growth of money supply came from high demands for borrowing capital at the rate of 12% the banks offer, imposed by the Government to make credit accessible to average Iranians and small entrepreneurs. However, this rate is lower than the rate of inflation. This makes the cost of borrowing less than free market cost as determined by supply and demand, based on the inflation rate and investment risk.[98]

Direct instruments

Indirect instruments

  • Open deposit account (ODA): control liquidity through absorption of banks’ excess resources. The CBI pays profit to these deposits with the CBI on the basis of specific rules.[99]

Central bank balance sheet

Source: International Monetary Fund[41] (In billions of rials; unless otherwise indicated) Prel. 2008/09 Proj. 2009/10
Net foreign assets (NFA) 703,329 789,498
In millions of U.S. dollars 72,381 77,050
-Foreign assets 773,352 863,336
In millions of U.S. dollars 79,587 84,257
-Foreign liabilities 1/ 70,023 73,839
In millions of U.S. dollars 7,206 7,206
Net domestic assets (NDA) -139,843 -225,654
Net domestic credit -5,141 21,083
-Central government, net -283,735 -228,046
Claims 74,779 74,779
Deposits 358,514 302,824
-Claims on banks 239,758 206,409
-Claims on non financial public enterprises (NFPEs) 38,836 42,719
-Other items net, excluding central bank participation papers (CPPs) -134,701 -246,737
Base money 556,925 556,925
Currency 206,352 200,745
-Currency in circulation 157,764 153,478
-Cash in vaults 48,588 47,268
Reserves 334,495 338,445
-Required reserves 225,228 307,757
-Excess reserves 109,267 30,688
Deposits of NFPE and municipalities 16,078 17,734
Other liabilities 6,561 6,919
-CPPs 0 0
-Foreign currency deposits of NFPEs and municipalities 6,561 6,919
Memorandum items:
End-period change (in percent of base money)
-Base money 45.4 0.0
-NFA 13.4 15.5
-NDA (net of other liabilities) 32.0 -15.5
Note: 1/ Includes some liabilities in foreign currency to residents.

Foreign relations

Iran is member of the Islamic Development Bank. As of August 2006, the World Bank has financed 48 development projects in the country for a total original commitment of US$3,413 million.[100] World Bank loans to Iran come only from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Iran is a member of the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.[101] Iran joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on December 29, 1945.[102] CBI governors attend IMF's board discussions on Iran on behalf of the government. These meetings are usually held once a year in Washington, D.C..[103] The Central Bank of Iran has an observer status at the annual meetings of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland.

US sanctions

The US Treasury Department has also stepped up its attempt to restrict financing of foreign investment and trade with Iran. In January 2006, Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse announced separately that they were halting operations in Iran. In September 2006 the Treasury Department banned all dealings by Bank Saderat Iran with the US financial system, and in January 2007 it also blacklisted Bank Sepah and its British subsidiary, Bank Sepah International. In October 2007 the US Treasury blacklisted Bank Melli and Bank Mellat.

Under pressure from the US, 12 Chinese banks have reduced ties with Iranian banks since early September 2007, but five of them resumed commercial ties in mid-January 2008. In mid-February 2008, the US Treasury alleged that Bank Markazi (Iran’s central bank) helped the blacklisted banks evade US sanctions, by conducting transactions for them. The allegations could lead to sanctions and stiff penalties against Iran’s central bank, especially if US allies participate in them.[104]

Barter trade

The Central Bank possesses limited foreign cash reserves due to the international sanctions and problems in the transfer of funds in and out of country. In 2012, The U.S. unilaterally expanded sanctions, which cut off from the US financial system foreign firms that do business with the central bank.[105] Iran is reportedly making increasing use of barter trade, gold and local currencies of its trading partners to circumvent the international sanctions.[106][107] The CBI has been blocked from using SWIFT as of March 2012.[108]

Significant buildings


  • Official website
  • Postal address: 144 Mirdamad Boulevard, Tehran, Iran

See also

Iran portal
Economy portal


External links

  • (Persian) (English) Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran official site (including statistics about Iran's economy)
    • Laws and regulations relating to finance and banking in Iran (CBI website)
  • Annual Review (2010-11) - Report by the CBI by sector of activity, including marco-economic data.
  • Islamic banking - 2007 Iran-Daily press article
  • PressTV
  • Iran's Banking System - 2010 PressTV

Coordinates: 35°45′28.31″N 51°26′6.36″E / 35.7578639°N 51.4351000°E / 35.7578639; 51.4351000

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