Rouhani Promises to Expand Social Welfare

The government is set to tap into the job-creating potential of tourism industry, as it believes that one million jobs can be generated in the sector annually
Hassan RouhaniHassan Rouhani

President Hassan Rouhani said should he win reelection in the Friday vote, he will press ahead with economic reforms to promote social welfare, in an appeal to the underprivileged, who mostly live off government handouts.

Rouhani, who is facing a fierce challenge from conservative hopefuls, dismissed rumors that his government plans to cease monthly cash payments to the public, part of the Subsidy Reform Plan initiated by his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010.

"Rumors have been circulated by the supporters of some candidates that the government intends to stop subsidy payments. This is not true," he said in a campaign talk with the state broadcaster on Saturday.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and the custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), Ebrahim Raeisi, the top conservative candidates, have hammered Rouhani's economic record and vowed to increase cash handouts two- to three-fold if they win the executive office.

Under the plan, subsidies on food and energy were removed and every Iranian was paid 455,000 rials ($12) on a monthly basis.

Rouhani's administration has retained the plan, although reluctantly.

Nonetheless, it has moved to narrow the number of cash subsidy recipients, slowly but steadily.

He also outlined his plans to address widespread unemployment that continues to plague the large youth population.

  Workforce Training

Rouhani said a workforce training program is scheduled to be put in place in about nine months.

"It applies to people who cannot land a job due to lack of required technical skills," he said.

Among other initiatives, he said the government plans to include new training courses in the educational curricula.

The president noted that the government recognizes the need to tap into the job-creating potential of tourism industry.

"We believe that one million jobs can be generated in the tourism sector annually," he said.

Rouhani further said the domestic economy can benefit substantially from closer cooperation between the university and the production sector.

"Like in the developed countries, we should link the universities to production centers. [This has helped those countries] become self-sufficient and provide employment to their entire skilled workforce," he said.

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