Economy Needs Major Surgery

President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a meeting with top lawmakers in Tehran on Jan. 1.
President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a meeting with top lawmakers in Tehran on Jan. 1.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's economy which is gripped by major challenges requires a major overhaul, urging all state bodies to cooperate with the government to smoothly implement the much-needed reforms.

"Our economy needs major surgery, and we ought to stand together [to make the changes]," Rouhani said in a Monday meeting with chairmen of specialized parliamentary commissions in Tehran, according to his official website.

The administration is struggling to revive the underperforming economy, which is plagued with a raft of major issues such as inefficient banking and tax systems, massive smuggling, inadequate investment, bloated governmental bodies and widespread joblessness among the educated youth.           

The president pointed to the issue of non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions and said, "If we had not performed surgery on illegal credit firms, the tumor would have spread to the whole body of the Iranian economy."

"The surgery was successful as everyone, including the judiciary and Majlis, joined hands [to solve the problem]."    

Earlier, Rouhani had urged people to express objections to financial hardships in a way that leads to an improvement in their lives, saying it is time for Iranians to assist the government in working toward feasible solutions to their longstanding woes.

The 69-year-old cleric made the statement in a Cabinet session on Sunday, referring to street protests against rising prices and unemployment in a string of cities that started in Mashhad on Thursday.

The president said his government has gone to great lengths in the past four years to ease people's concerns, and economic indicators prove that the country's conditions are better than 2013, when he first assumed office.

However, Rouhani said there are still problems whose origins go back to previous governments and cannot be easily resolved.

"The government and nation must join hands to tackle these problems."

"We have various problems regarding weather, dust storms, water, employment, economy, society and politics. We must fight corruption and people should be able to monitor our performance. These problems exist and must be solved. But what way should we choose?"

The protests against high prices drew considerable attention as some demonstrators in several cities chanted political slogans against top Iranian authorities and Iran's role in regional conflicts.  

There were also reports of violence in some gatherings, which saw crowds confronting police and attacking some state buildings.

Police announced on Saturday it had arrested a number of demonstrators that were trying to damage public property.

***Insincere Sympathy

Rouhani said people's legitimate right to protest does not justify using violence against police, damage public property and disrupt order.

"According to the Constitution and citizenship rights, people are entirely free to express their criticism or even [stage] protests. But we should voice criticism and objection in a way that leads to an improvement in the country's conditions and people's lives".

The president urged protesters to exercise "extra vigilance" and avoid unlawful conduct that benefits no Iranian and could prove detrimental to the future of the country.

"If the way chosen for voicing criticism leads to undue stress in people's personal and business lives, [it would discourage] investment and makes our enemies happy, then it is certainly wrong."

Rouhani said acts of violence by some protestors have only benefited ill-wishers in the US and some Arab governments in the region that face a myriad of problems in their own countries.

"The guy in the US who wants to express sympathy with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the Iranian nation terrorist... He has no right to show compassion for Iranians," Rouhani said, referring to US President Donald Trump who called Iranians a "terrorist nation" a day before delivering his Oct. 12 speech to announce his administration's new Iran strategy.

The US has openly offered backing for the protests, with its top officials sparing no chance to condemn the arrests of some protesters.

Trump has posted several tweets in support of protesters in Iran, claiming that "the good people of Iran want change".

He has apparently revived the US policy of regime change toward Iran.

Two of his top officials, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have explicitly talked about the need for what has been characterized as "peaceful transition" of the Iranian government.


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