Iran in economic distress: Skipped loan payments spark concern
Iran has not paid back any of its loans to the World Bank for more than six months, the bank said Thursday, a further sign of the strains on the sanctions-hit Iranian economy. Faced with a combination of poor fiscal management and Western economic sanctions, Iran has suffered from spiraling prices and high unemployment in the last year.
The World Bank said it was placing Iran’s loans in nonperforming status, as it must do when a country has not made any payments for more than half a year. Iran owed the bank $697 million on June 30, of which $79 million was overdue.
The designation from the World Bank, often a lender of last resort to cash-strapped governments, means Iran may find it even harder to get money from commercial creditors.
Iran will also be ineligible for any new World Bank funds, although it has not borrowed from the bank since 2005 and has no current World Bank programs. It is still required to make payments on what it owes the bank.
The World Bank said it took a hit of $81 million in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 due to Iran’s nonperforming loans, a tiny percentage of its multibillion-dollar lending portfolio.
Zimbabwe is the only other country beside Iran that is in “non-accrual status” – it has not made any payments to the World Bank since 2000.
The United States and its allies have imposed hard-hitting sanctions against Iran’s oil and banking sectors to choke off funding to its nuclear program. Western governments say Iran seeks to develop the ability to make weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The sanctions nearly halved Iran’s oil revenues in 2012 to around $50 billion-$60 billion. Iranian banks were disconnected from the global financial network, making payment transfers to or from Iran very difficult.