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Iranian Politicians Trade Barbs As Economy Continues To Suffer

IRAN -- Iran9an Senior Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri sits in front of a painting of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini during a top-level meeting on prevention and combating the coronavirus, in Tehran, 28 February, 2020

Iran's Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, has accused the Speaker of Iran's Majlis parliament of having the "least possible knowledge of the economy."

During a Majlis meeting on Monday, the parliamentary speaker, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, commented that the government should seek new sources of essential goods, suggesting an increase of customs duties.

Qalibaf made the comment at a debate about passing into law a parliamentary motion for supplying essential goods.

A day earlier, the Guardian Council rejected a motion that would require the government to increase subsidies for the essential commodities.

Responding to Qalibaf's comment, Jahangri commented, "Some say we should increase customs resources. Whoever says this shows that they have not the slightest knowledge of the economy."

"Such accounts will increase the price of all goods across the country," Jahangiri said, adding that the result of the income gained from such a decision would be "inflation" and "a staggering increase in the price of all commodities."

On October 28, Majlis approved a parliamentary motion in which the government would pay subsidies for essential goods in the form of coupons. The parliamentary bill requires the government to provide more assistance to about sixty million citizens from the beginning of the second half of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20, 2020.

The Iranian government repeatedly criticized the parliamentary bill for lack of funding.

In a letter to the Speaker of Majlis on Sunday, the Deputy Secretary of the Guardian Council declared the motion against Article 75 of Iran's Constitution, and argued that it would increase the "public expenditure" since the government was unable to fund it.

In addition to the Vice President, the head of the Plan and Budget Organization (PBO), and Deputy President, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, also wrote a scathing letter to Qalibaf.

Earlier, Qalibaf told government officials that the problems in the areas of housing, customs, and prices "depended on (public buildings in Tehran's streets of) Pastor and Baharestan and Bob Homayoun and Mirdamad, not on Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona."

Qalibaf was referring to the controversial U.S. presidential election results, which the Iranian media and the country's domestic politics covered in recent days.

Nobakht responded to Qalibaf's sarcastic comment by underlying that the government's foreign exchange earnings had fallen "from hundreds of billions of dollars to several billion dollars."

However, Nobakht argued that President Rouhani's administration still had "measures" to manage its affairs under such conditions, saying that the Iranian government "does not want any negotiations" with the U.S, and any probable future talks between Tehran and Washington required the lifting of sanctions.

In a letter to Qalibaf last Sunday, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Abdol Nasser Hemmati, also responded to the Speaker's remarks, saying the CBI "did not look to the outcome of the U.S. election" and "nobody should drag it into political and marginal issues."

Allies of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have accused the Rouhani administration of tying the government's decision-making and management to the U.S. election outcome awaiting a change of government in Washington.

Over the past four years, Iranian oil sales have plummeted under severe sanctions and pressure from the Trump administration.

The Iranian government expects that some parts of Iran's economic sanctions will be lifted once Joe Biden enters the White House and re-joins the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.