Iran's Economic Revival Pivots on Thriving Exports

The government has created two million jobs, but it is still hard-pressed to create jobs for three million unemployed people
President Hassan Rouhani addresses a gathering of workers in Tehran on May 1.President Hassan Rouhani addresses a gathering of workers in Tehran on May 1.

President Hassan Rouhani said a strong rebound in domestic economy fresh out of years of severe sanctions hinges upon a thriving export sector.

"Today, Iranian workers' demands go beyond just payment issues. They want their products to be presented to the world. The government has been striving to pave the way for increased exports," the president was quoted as saying by his official website.

He was addressing a gathering of workers on the occasion of International Workers' Day on Monday.

Rouhani acknowledged that he has not been able to generate as much employment as he promised during his election campaigning in 2013. He has filed for reelection in the presidential polls later this month.

"The government has created two million jobs but we are all still suffering from the pain of three million unemployed people," he said.

The president's challengers have seized upon his poor job creation record to reinforce their criticism that with the end of Rouhani's first four-year term in sight, Iran's economy is still struggling with major challenges despite the lifting of economic sanctions.

A nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, namely the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany, came into force on January 16, 2016, to grant Iran sanctions relief and curb its nuclear program in return.

Rouhani has touted the agreement as a great achievement that could be exploited to facilitate Iran's return to global markets.

His conservative critics and their representatives in the presidential race have piled pressure on Rouhani to show the accord's benefits and the proof of the promised economic recovery.

Despite bringing down the inflate rate, prices of food, cars and household appliances have been on a rising trend.

Critics also oppose Rouhani's plans for opening up the economy to international businesses on concerns that it might undermine domestic businesses, but he insists that foreign investment is indispensable to economic reforms.

Ebrahim Raeisi, one of Rouhani's main conservative contenders, disputed Rouhani's assertion in a recorded speech broadcast on state television on Sunday.

"It is wrong to wait for years for foreign investors to arrive ... We should solve our problems by relying on our domestic capabilities," said Raeisi, the custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH) and former prosecutor general.

Campaigning started on April 21 and will last until 24 hours before the May 19 vote.

The four other candidates are Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, former conservative culture minister, Mostafa Mirsalim, former pro-reform vice president, Mostafa Hashemitaba and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

They participated in the first televised debate last Friday, with the next two scheduled for May 5 and May 12.


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