Domestic Economy

Economy Must Break Free From Monopoly

Economy Must  Break Free From Monopoly
Economy Must  Break Free From Monopoly

President Hasan Rouhani said on Sunday that Iran's economy must break free from what he called "monopolistic grip". He also said major economic issues should be put to a referendum

"The country's constitution obliges us to directly engage people in major economic, social, political and cultural issues, rather than simply passing laws in the parliament on such issues," the president said, addressing a major economic conference in Tehran.

The first and the biggest conference on the Iranian economy entitled "Strategies to Achieve Sustainable Growth and Employment" opened in the capital Tehran on Sunday in the presence of President Hassan Rouhani, ministers, economic activists, and other dignitaries.  

Some 1500 economic experts are expected to discuss macroeconomic issues during the two-day event.

In his speech, the president said since Iran's economy is being driven by politics it is susceptible to political volatilities both at home and abroad. He also criticized certain institutions, without specifically identifying them, for their tendency to run afoul of the law by evading tax.

The president said economic transparency is the only way to achieve "competitive economy", adding, "Iran's economy should break free from monopoly and rent-seeking practices. All government bodies should be transparent in their economic activities."

Mr. Rouhani was elected in June last year promising to create a government based on "prudence and hope." He also vowed "moderation and transparency" in the manner the country is run.

During his Sunday's address, the president said that the country's economy was grappling with major economic setbacks such as high rate of inflation, stagflation and turbulence in the currency market when he took the office in June 2012.

"The inflation was running over 40%, the money and currency markets were engulfed in massive turbulence to the extent where it was difficult to predict the future, and the government was under heavy debts," Rouhani said, promising to bring down the inflation to a single-digit rate by the end of his current presidential term.

The inflation rate reached nearly 40% in October 2013. President Rouhani has on several occasions said that curbing inflation, which is seen as a precondition for economic growth, is a top priority of his government. According to several reports released by Iran's Central Banks, the government seems to have been successful in accomplishing its goal.

One report by the CBI, which was published recently, indicates that the Inflation rate was reduced to 17.2% in the month of Azar (ending December 21). Another report showed the economy grew by 4.6 percent in spring and by 3.7 percent in summer. The GDP growth in the first half of the fiscal year (ending Mach 20) reached 4 percent, ending two years of negative growth.

> 'Ideals Not Wedded to Centrifuges'

President Rouhani said uranium enrichment has nothing to with the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, defending his administration's efforts in handling the nuclear dispute with the West.

"In today's world, what matters is the national interest. Every country seeks its own interest. The issue of 'ideals' is not discussed in the realm of foreign policy," Rouhani said.

Iran and the six world powers (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) failed to meet a second self-imposed deadline in November to reach a comprehensive settlement to the a decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear program and decided to extend the negotiations on a final deal for seven more months until the end of next June. They held a new round of talks in Geneva, Switzerland last month.

"Our ideals are not wedded to our centrifuges," president Rouhani said, responding to the criticism raised by his foes at home after Iran agreed to temporarily halt part of its nuclear activities based on the  agreement reached in 2013 with the P5+1.

Under the interim nuclear accord with the major powers, Tehran agreed to temporarily scale down parts of its nuclear activities in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions.

> National Security

President Rouhani said that national security is directly linked to the country's economic power and its international relations.

"National security is bolstered when the country's railway network is linked with other countries; when you are able to export your water, gas and electricity; and when foreigners come to invest in the country and our investors do the same abroad."

Also speaking at the event, the president's senior economic advisor, Masoud Nili, echoed the president's remarks by saying that international relations will influence "national economic growth".

 "Economic stability, effective and efficient financial system and sustainable foreign relations all have an impact on economic growth," Nili said.

Lamenting the difficulties surrounding the controversial Subsidy Reform Plan, the president said there is no comprehensive and concrete statistics on the country's demography to distinguish the poor from the rich.

In an attempt to shave billions of dollars off the government annual budget, the Subsidy Reform Plan was launched to cut the subsidies on energy carries and major commodities. To compensate the price rise, the government promised to pay a monthly sum to the low-income strata of the society.

"We have to reach to a point where we may no longer be affected by the superpowers' decisions" Rouhani said, expressing hope that "the future is bright for the country."