As the year on the Iranian calendar came to an end on March 20, Iranian daily newspapers generally expressed disappointment on the state of the country’s economy in their end of the year editions.
However, hardline and pro-reform dailies presented different predictions about the economy for the new year, 1397.
While moderate and pro-reform dailies were cautiously optimistic about the state of the economy in 1397, hardline dailies saw very little light, if any, at the end of the tunnel.
The reason for this is the obvious policy of hardliners to blame President Hassan Rouhani for most of the country’s economic problems.
Reformist daily Sharq named the previous year “the year of protest,” and cited an opinion poll that had concluded 69 percent of demonstrators that took to the street in December and January demanded an “improvement in in the economic situation.”
Reformists insist that Iran’s economic problems are not new and Rouhani has only tried to improve the situation. They blame corruption, mismanagement during former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and sometimes point out the negative roles the military and religious foundations play.
Hardline daily Kayhan criticized President Hassan Rouhani for not reporting production and employment figures and for presenting inaccurate statistics.
Pointing out complaints made by businesses and manufacturers, Kayhan opined that figures presented by Rouhani couldn’t solve the country’s economic problems.
Referring to “the devaluation of Iranian currency, and the surprising imbalance between imports and exports,” Kayhan questioned Rouhani’s promise of economic justice in the next year and wrote “economic improvement will not take place based on slogans.“
IRGC affiliated daily Javan featured one of the most extensive economic reports at the end of the year. The report included interviews with six economists.
The economists were generally unhappy about economic developments in the past year and the way the Rouhani administration has handled them.
Pedram Soltani told Javan that “many of the economic issues in the next year are tied to international political developments.” He advised that “Iran should make it a priority to resolve tensions with neighbors.”
Abolfazl Roghani said in his interview with Javan that while Iranian economy suffered from recession in the past year, it is unlikely that the situation would improve in the next year. He also said that re-raising interest rates to over 22 percent at the end of the year has made any reform in the banking system only harder.
Jamal Razeghi, another economist talking to Javan, concurred that he saw no sign of improvement in the economy in the coming year. Razeghi criticized the administration’s plans to create new jobs as throwing money at problems. He called for “reforming the banking and tax system and a prompt measure to mend Iran’s foreign relations” in order to bring about an improvement in the economy.
Mohsen Safai called for transparency in the economy and Ali Dilmaghanian said officials should not make promises they cannot keep. He added: “Officials should know that Iran is not an Island and good relations with our neighbors should be part of our economic strategy.”
Morteza Allahdad told Javan that the government should support ”production” rather than merely supporting “organizations with links to the government.”
Reformist daily Bahar criticized the government for the chaos in the foreign exchange market. The daily wrote that there are as many as ten different rates of exchange in the market and there are all sorts of authorized and unauthorized dealers. The dollar rates range from 3,300 for calculating the budget to 4,800 at retail exchange outlets.
Bahar predicted that the rate of exchange by the end of next year would be 5200 tumans to the dollar.
Hardline daily Vatan-e Emrooz, which is close to the ultraconservative Paydari party, asked in an end of the year commentary; “Has the administration heard the people’s voice?”
According to the commentary, “Recession continued throughout the year, many people lost their jobs, industries were not as active as they should have been, but the statistics presented by the Rouhani administration told a different story.”
Vatan-e Emrooz wrote that “The society has never accepted the claim of one million job creation in the first half of the year.” The daily opined that Rouhani’s economic team needs a major shake-up.