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Iran inflation hits 25.9 pc

TEHRAN, Mar 8 – Inflation, one of the biggest challenges facing oil-rich Iran, hit 25.9 percent in February, local news agencies reported on Sunday, quoting official figures.

Inflation rose to 25.9 percent in the Iranian calendar month of Bahman ending February 18 from the previous month\’s figure of 24 percent, the ISNA news agency quoted the central bank as saying.

The latest figure, although marginally higher than for January, is still lower than the September 2008 peak of 29 percent.

Central bank chief Mahmoud Bahmani has vowed to cut inflation to around 22 percent by March 20, the end of the current Iranian year, in a strategy of "increasing production and supplying goods proportionate to demand."

Central bank officials have cited growth in money supply as the prime factor for the surge in inflation, along with rising global prices.

Analysts predict that the government injecting oil money into the economy will keep inflation considerably high for years to come, despite the central bank\’s efforts to reduce excessive liquidity.

The latest inflationary data comes as lawmakers on Sunday began debating the Islamic republic\’s annual budget for the year to March 2010.

Hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been criticised for his expansionary economic policies, in January submitted to parliament an overall budget of 282.7 billion dollars with a deficit forecast at 44 billion dollars.

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