Unfinished Business

Deputy Chief Editor
Unfinished Business Unfinished Business

Our country has reached a time in its contemporary history when the economic goals, policies and priorities of the earlier era need to be reshaped, reviewed, revised and rewritten to address the challenges and problems of today.

That our economic affairs are not in good health is a foregone conclusion, thanks to the unjust international sanctions, gross mismanagement of yesteryears, overreliance on volatile oil export revenues, lack of transparency, poor work ethics, high expectations from government grants and handouts…you name it.

It is equally true that President Hassan Rouhani and his men are doing everything possible to fix the seemingly unending problems inherited three years ago from his controversial predecessor. Their awareness and partial success is manifest in the taming of galloping inflation -- from 40% in 2013 to below 10% now. Another accomplishment of the government whose tenure ends in June next year, is the relative stability in the foreign exchange market for more than three years.

Such big plus points, though worthy of mention and commendation in their own right, are good but not enough to carry the sanction-saddled economy as it tries to catch up with the outside world and compensate the precious years lost to sanctions and undeserved isolation. Time is, and will be, of essence. As the western-backed economic sanctions become history, countries big and small have made it known in unambiguous terms that they are willing and able to revive ties to Tehran, albeit on the basis of mutual interest and reciprocal respect.

True, the banking problems are still a powerful hurdle and will take some time to be settled before things get back to normal. But the key question for most friends of Iran is to what extent is Iran ready for business as usual as it opens up and seeks the space, compatible with its status, on the regional and international economic map.                  

If Tehran is facing obstructions putting the sanction-hit economy together, it is also because the West in general and the US particular has not done all what the nuclear deal they signed in July 2015 demands from them regarding the easing of sanctions.

Examples of their procrastinations and visible failures are the problems associated with the passenger planes Iran wants to buy from Airbus and Boeing along with the irritating restrictions on international banks wanting to reconnect with Tehran.

Most watchers of the nuclear agreement will tell you that the trust factor is still very much absent in Washington and some other western capitals despite the fact that Tehran has gone the extra mile in fulfilling all its commitments enshrined in the historic agreement.

It can and must be said that if this unhelpful pattern of 'no-confidence' between Iran and the six powers continues, and which is obviously hurting the Rouhani administration's credibility at home, amendments to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will be necessary sooner rather than later.

In today's world where all business, banking, finance, trade and related activities in and among nations are subject to strict scrutiny by   international oversight bodies, Tehran too is required to see the reality as it is, not as what it would like or want it to be.

One bitter reality is that for extended periods Iran has had trouble working and connecting with the world economy for the reasons mentioned above.

Add to this list the chronic regulatory weakness of our economy that does not bode well for the much-needed mutually-beneficial industrial and commercial collaboration with the international community.

Whenever the situations have warranted, Rouhani and his aides have strongly advocated reforms to turn the economy around. The last time the president announced the dire need for "economic vitality and reform" was this weekend.

Addressing a public rally in Markazi Province on Sunday, Rouhani made clear that only economic reform and regeneration launched by his government can, and will, put millions of the youth on the payroll and reverse the tsunami of joblessness harming unusually large sections of  our society at different levels of the economic ladder.

As election season approaches, politicians, policymakers and powerhouses will certainly encounter difficult and different sets of realities. The task ahead will be all the more daunting for the incumbent president and his government who are under mounting pressure to put the economy back on track.

The barriers that have long existed plus the new ones placed by Rouhani's powerful opponents notwithstanding, the government of "hope, prudence and moderation" knows that it does not have a stellar record. It also is well aware of what the people think and want on the social, political and economic front.

Informed minds will tell you that the country has the resources and resilience needed to address the challenges that lie ahead. But what most want to know is whether there is the much-needed vision and judgment at the higher echelons of power to meet them?

Time is running out and a lot of unfinished business lies around leaving no room for complacency. The stakes are as high as the expectations of 80 million Iranians tired of useless political bickering over everything from how to repair broken relations with former adversaries to rebuilding robust economic collaboration with the outside world and safeguarding national interest.

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