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Facing Tough Times, Top Iran Officials Speak Of Boosting Private Businesses

President Hassan Rouhani flanked by parliament speaker Ali Larijani (L) and his deputy Es'haq Jahangiri (R) on May 7, 2016. File photo

Threatening the Islamic Republic with is a startegy by the "enemy" to destroy Iran's economy, Majles (parliament) speaker told an audience in Iran on Monday.

Although Ali Larijani stopped short of naming the "enemy" behind the threat, he reiterated, "The enemy is seeking to get investors disappointed by creating obstacles and making baseless claims."

The Islamic Republic authorities in the past four decades have repeatedly used the terms "threat of war" and "hostile foreign governments" to explain why in terms of exportable industrial production, employment and wages they have failed to deliver.

Critics insist that in fact the major reason for the economic failure is domination of the economy by religious, political and military elites, mismanagement, shortcomings, and widespread corruption in the closely interlocked political and economic system of the the oil-rich country.

Without the right political connections, no investor or businessman can hope to succeed on a large scale.

But now, with a nine percent economic contraction this year, lack of foreign currency revenues and U.S. sanction pressures, senior Iranian officials have begun promoting the idea of easing restrictions on private businesses to stimulate production.

Meanwhile, as a rule, the term "enemy," in the Islamic Republic's jargon, refers to the United States and its close allies.

Nonetheless, U.S. President Donald Trump has announced on several occasions in recent months that Washington is not seeking war with Tehran. U.S. strategy seems ro hinge on continuing tough economic sanctions to force Iran to negotiate on its nuclear program and its conduct in the region.

Visiting the city of Semnan, 219 kilometers (approximately 136 miles) southeast of the capital city, Tehran, Larijani also asserted that the "enemy" intends to “paralyze" production in Iran.

But at the same time Larijani admitted that the "big size of the government" is a "major obstacle" for investment in the country.

In contrast to Larijani's comments, President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet have hinted in the past that by establishing monopoly over some sectors of the Iranian economy, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has practically eliminated the private sector, making real businessmen reluctant to invest.

Rouhani has even gone further by describing the IRGC in 2017 as "a government armed with a gun" that nobody dares to compete with it.

In the meantime, Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri also on Monday admitted that Iran is suffering from monopoly and economic rents.

Moreover, Jahangiri asserted that the Iranian economy needs deregulation to survive. He acknowledged that there are serious systemic problems but he insisted the country cannot wait for major reforms and needs to take immediate steps to boost private business.

While a special delegation is currently active in deregulation and paving the way for the private sector to ease the cumbersome process of obtaining licenses, Jahangiri complained, "The executive departments are issuing new regulations, day in and day out."