Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran
بانک مرکزی جمهوری اسلامی ايران
Headquarters Tehran, Iran
Established 1960[1]
Ownership entirely Government owned[2]
Governor Valiollah Seif
Central bank of Iran
Currency Iranian rial
IRR (ISO 4217)
Website www.cbi.ir

The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI; Persian: بانک مرکزی جمهوری اسلامی ايران, aka Bank Markazi-ye Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān) 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 (rial), 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. 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

Further information: Banking in Iran § History
Imperial Bank of Persia, Teheran, 1902

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.

Former building of Iran's Central Bank

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] Iran’s banking system adhered to the new Islamic rules that prohibit earning or paying interest.

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).[9][10]

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.[11] MCC meets every three months.[12]

In practice, the ability of the banking system to create money is not much constrained by the amount of scriptural money through fractional reserve banking. Indeed most banks first extend credit and look for reserves later.[13] The Iranian Central Bank needs more independence from the government in order to combat inflation, according to the country’s Parliament Research Center.[14] As of 2010, Iran’s Central Bank, is not able to conduct a “proactive” monetary policy (e.g. it needs Majlis' approval before issuing participation bonds) and has no control over the government’s fiscal policy.[15]

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.[16]

"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.[17][18] Then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad critiqued this proposal and said that it is important for the Central Bank of Iran not to fall under private control "because it would not benefit the Iranian people" over the long run.[19]

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.[17] The governors of Central Bank of Iran are as follows:[20]

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 Ghassemi 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 Monetary and Banking Law of Iran (MBAI)[8] are as follows:

To achieve the objectives as stated in the MBAI, CBI is endowed with the responsibility of fulfilling the following functions:[21]

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 Majlis.[22] This law describes and authorizes an Iranian Shiite version of Islamic commercial laws (as differentiated from a less 'liberal' Sunni version).[23] According to this law, Iranian banks can only engage in interest-free Islamic transactions (as interest is considered 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 "provisional profit" called Mobadala.

In practice, 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.[24] 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.[25] All such transactions are performed through Islamic contracts, such as Mozarebe, Foroush Aghsati, Joalah, Salaf, and Gharzolhasaneh. Details of these contracts and related practices are outlined in the Iranian Interest-Free banking law and its guidelines. Examples are:

  1. Gharzolhasaneh: An interest-free, non-profit, loan extended by a bank to a real or legal person for a definite period of time.
  2. Joalah: The undertaking by one party (the jael, Bank or employer) to pay a specified money (the joal) to another party in return for rendering a specified service in accordance with the terms of the contract. The party rendering the service shall be called "Amel" (the Agent or Contractor).
  3. Mosaqat: A contract between the owner of an orchard or garden with another party (the Amel or Agent) for the purpose of gathering the harvest of the orchard or garden and dividing it, in a specified ratio, between the two parties . The harvest can be fruit, leaves, flowers, etc. of the plants in the orchard or garden .
  4. Mozaraah: A contract where the bank (the Mozare) turns over a specified plot of land for a specified period of time to another party (the Amel or Agent) for the purpose of farming the land and dividing the harvest between the two parties at a specified ratio.
  5. Mozarebe: A contract wherein the bank undertakes to provide the cash capital and other party (the Amel or Avent) undertakes to use the capital for commercial purposes and divide the profit at a specified ratio between the two parties at the end of the term of the contract.

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.[26][27] Iran, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are at the top with the biggest sharia-compliant assets.[28]

According to the IMF, Islamic banking forbids pure monetary speculation and stresses that deals should be based on real economic activity and therefore poses less risk than conventional banking to the stability of financial systems.[29]


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.[25]

Credit agency

As of 2015, Iranian consumers have little debt.[30]

Iran does not have any special credit rating institute for customer’s credibility rating but all Iranian banks obligated to send statistics of bounced check to central bank of Iran. However follow up on bounced checks are a difficult task.[31]

In 2010, "Iran Credit Rating Consulting Company" became Iran's first credit agency by decree of the CBI.[32]

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 materialized, local debit 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.[33] Iran remains largely a cash-based economy.

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.[34]


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.[35] 10.7% of cheques written in 2009 bounced.[36]

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.[37] Iran's electronic commerce will reach 10 trillion rials ($1 billion) by March 2009.[38] Some wealthier people have debit cards, but there is no MasterCard, Visa or American Express in Iran and few foreign banks are active there because of international sanctions.[39] Around 94% of Iranians had a debit card, compared with less than 20% in Egypt (2015).[40] In 2016, Iran introduced its own domestic credit card system based on Sukuk principles and reported talks with Mastercard (and other international payment operators) for a re-entry.[41][42]


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.[43]

Anti-money laundering law

The Central Bank of Iran is enforcing the newly-passed Anti-Money Laundering law to curb possible crime. The minister of intelligence, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and several other ministers are among the members of the special committee in charge of the campaign against money laundering. In 2008, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Watchdog praised the Islamic Republic's crackdown on money laundering. The 34-member financial watchdog congratulated Tehran on its commitment to seal money laundering loopholes.[44] However, in 2010, FATF, named Ecuador and Iran on a list of states that it says are failing to comply with international regulations against money laundering and financing terrorism.[45]

It has been estimated by the government of Iran in 2015 that dirty money from drug trafficking in Iran amounts to 10 trillion toumans a year (1 touman equals 10 rials), some of which has been finding its way into "elections and the securing of votes" to influence the country's politics.[46]

Key statistics

As of 2010, major economic indicators will no longer be announced by the Central Bank but will instead be reported by the Statistical Center of Iran.[47]

GDP growth

Iran's nominal GDP & projections by the World Bank and the Economist (1999-2015 est.)

Money supply and inflation

Between 2002 and 2006, the rate of inflation in Iran has been fluctuating between 12 and 16%[58]

Lending rates

Exchange rates

Main article: Iran's currency value
US dollar/Iranian rial historical official & free market exchange rates (2000-2014).
note: Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002. Iran devalued its currency in July 2013.
Pre-unification, rials per US dollar:
Market: 8,200 (2002), 8,050 (2001), 8,350 (2000)[67]
Official: 6,906 (2002), 1,753 (2001), 1,764 (2000)[68]

Banking balance sheets

Foreign reserves

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."[77]

Gold reserves

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.[78] In 2009, when the gold price was on average $656 per ounce, 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.)[79]

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.[80][81] The CBI governor however reports only 500 tons (i.e. above ground gold reserves).[82] The discrepancy is unexplained but the 907 tons could (mistakenly) include below-ground gold reserves (320 metric tons as of 2012) and possibly the gold in Iranian private hands (~100 tons in coins, jewelry or bullion).[83] In 2014, reports from the Central Bank put its gold stores at 90 tons only, the rest possibly used in barter trade following sanctions.[83][84]

Oil revenues

  1. $35 billion in imported goods (2005–2009),
  2. $25 billion in oil revenues (2005–2008),[86]
  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).[11]

  1. ^ http://en.tpo.ir/UserFiles/File/Mehr%20&%20Azar.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1497809
  3. ^ Mehr News Agency: Iran eyes $250 billion annual revenue in 5 years Retrieved December 22, 2010
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference cia was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference ReferenceB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference lcweb2 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

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%.[58]

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 the prices of 395 goods and services in Iran's urban areas.[96][97]

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

Central bank balance sheet

Source: International Monetary Fund[53] (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.[101] 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.[102] Iran joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on December 29, 1945.[103] 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..[104] The Central Bank of Iran has an observer status at the annual meetings of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland.

Foreign exposure and transactions

It has been questioned by Iranian media why bank assets and foreign reserves weren't repatriated while new sanctions against Iran to freeze those same funds were being discussed publicly abroad.

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 Iran's Central Bank helped the blacklisted banks evade US sanctions, by conducting transactions for them.[115]

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.[116] Iran is reportedly making increasing use of barter trade, cash smuggling, gold and local currencies of its trading partners to circumvent the international sanctions.[117][118] The CBI has been blacklisted by the U.S. government due to the bank's involvement in the Iranian nuclear program and it has been blocked from using SWIFT since March 2012 as a consequence.[119]


The Central Bank of Iran publishes a variety of periodicals for general and specialist audiences including Economic Trends, Bulletin, Annual Review, Economic Report and Balance Sheet. Other publications include booklets, monographs and brochures. Many of those documents are also available in English.[120]

Significant buildings


See also


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External links


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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