Tue, 04 Aug 2020

Iranian President Presents 'Budget Of Resistance And Perseverance'

Voice of America
09 Dec 2019, 04:06 GMT+10

Iranian President Hassan Rohani presented what he called a "budget to resist sanctions" to parliament on Sunday and suggested a possible multibillion-dollar loan from Russia would be a key source of revenues.

The draft budget - for the Persian year that begins on March 2020 - comes with pressure mounting from U.S. sanctions and Iranians still reeling from a deadly crackdown last month on street unrest sparked by fuel rationing and a cut in subsidies.

Rohani said his proposed budget reflected "the least possible dependence on oil."

"Next year, similar to the current year, our budget is a budget of resistance and perseverance against sanctions," Rohani told lawmakers in remarks broadcast on state radio, according to AFP. "This budget announces to the world that despite sanctions we will manage the country, especially in terms of oil."

Iran's currency and economy have been buffeted by U.S. sanctions and other punitive measures imposed since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, although other signatories have labored to salvage the agreement.

Rohani's proposed budget reportedly totals some $40 billion, or a roughly 20-percent increase on this year's figure.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that Iran's economy - saddled by opaque ties to religious and military groups and heavily reliant on trade with China, United Arab Emirates, and the European Union - will have shrunk by nearly 10 percent this year.

Inflation in Iran is said to be around 40 percent.

It was initially unclear how the Iranian president expected to pay for elements of his draft budget, such as a promised 15-percent increase in public-sector wages.

But he cited a $5 billion loan from Russia that is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations.

Moscow said last month that Tehran had requested an additional $2 billion in loans for energy and infrastructure projects, suggesting it was an increase on a "promised $5 billion in 2015."

Russia has repeatedly blamed what it says are unfair U.S. tactics since Washington abandoned the nuclear deal for Iranian economic woes.

"Problems in Iran are very serious, to a large extent because of the U.S. sanctions that were imposed on that country absolutely illegally, because the Americans withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and are seeking to make others implement it," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Mediterranean Dialogues gathering in Rome on December 6.

The U.S. moves to isolate Tehran economically under a "maximum pressure" policy to dissuade it from pursuing nuclear-capable missiles, alleged state terrorism, and meddling abroad have particularly crippled Iranian oil sales, a key source of revenues.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has long subscribed to a "government of resistance" that seeks to avoid overentanglement with the West.

But Iran is highly reliant on the hydrocarbon sector, where crude exports have fallen to a fraction of their levels before the U.S. sanctions ramp-up began in March 2018.

Estimates vary wildly of the death toll from Iranian officials' response to protests that erupted in mid-November over gasoline-price hikes and a rationing plan, but Amnesty International says at least 208 Iranians have died as a result of what it called a "shameful disregard for human life."

Internet was cut off all over the country of more than 80 million people as protesters extended their chants to include Khamenei and other senior officials in the clerically dominated regime.

Meanwhile, Rohani's government was touting the arrival in Iran on December 7 of biologist Masud Soleimani, who was exchanged in a prisoner swap with the United States in a rare example of even indirect cooperation.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif escorted Soleimani back to Tehran and called Iranian achievements through self-reliance in science and technology the "biggest thorn in the side of those who do not want this nation's prosperity," according to state-controlled Press TV.

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