Ebrahim Raisi faces three major challenges

The Iranian Interior Ministry on Saturday announced Ebrahim Raisi as the winner of the country’s 13th presidential election.

The president-elect will assume office in August in face of three major challenges in boosting economy, dispelling political concerns and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Uncertainty

During the TV debates before the presidential voting, all the qualified candidates unanimously acknowledged uncertainty in the economic outlook of the country, with some slamming the U.S. sanctions and COVID-19 pandemic as the major causes of the country’s current poor economic condition.

Government officials pledged to curb the inflation rate and to restore economic growth after the 2015 nuclear deal was reached and major international and Western anti-Iran sanctions were lifted by then, but such a hope started to fade away following former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the deal in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Some analysts believe that Iran has missed the opportunity to carry out monetary and budgetary reforms, attract foreign investments, and restore stability and growth in economy.

According to Financial Tribune daily on June 16, currently the country’s budget imbalance stands at 50 percent.

It means that the country’s expenses will soon outgrow resources, and will increase the likelihood of future defaults unless the general condition of the country improves, the report quoted Masoud Nili, a senior Iranian economic expert, as saying.

The International Monetary Fund expects the inflation rate in Iran to rise to 39 percent in 2021 from 36.5 percent last year and the unemployment rate to increase from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent, according to the report.

Political Concerns

With Washington’s abrupt withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, commonly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the re-imposition and intensification of sanctions against Iran, the United States challenged all parties to the deal, but it was Iran that suffered the most from the unilateral move.

The ongoing negotiations among the representatives of Iran and those of the P4+1, including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, in Vienna are aimed at resuming the relevant parties’ commitment to the JCPOA, and setting the mechanism for lifting U.S. economic and financial sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Despite major progress, the talks have also met with obstacles that could make an immediate revival of the deal a far cry.

In the meantime, regional convergence may also rank high on the agenda of next government.

Although there are challenges in this regard, what can guarantee the political success of the future government could be a strategic relationship with neighboring countries.

Recently, Iran and Saudi Arabia have entered into negotiations, brokered by Iraq, in a bid to ease tensions and to settle disputes over rivalry political influences in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Uncontrolled Pandemic

Iran’s already injured economy under the U.S. sanctions has been dampened further by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the foreign sanctions, the disease has taken a heavy toll on the health sector, as well as the business of companies and households, and most importantly the pandemic has also caused social and psychological impact.

According to Iranian official figures, over 3 million people have contracted the virus, and more than 82,000 of them have died.

By Saturday, 4,374,729 people have received coronavirus vaccines in the country, with 906,546 having been fully inoculated.

Iranian authorities have denounced the U.S. sanctions and delays in the shipments of vaccines as a drag on its vaccination campaign.

The next president should have a precise understanding of inflation and its dynamics, negative investment growth, and the complex system of sanctions among a host of other issues, Masoud Khansari, head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, told the Persian daily Donya-e.


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