London – In a sign of continued internal disputes over the economic situation in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei criticized on Monday the government’s failure to address the country’s economic policies during the past year, expressing fears over unemployment and social inequalities.
“I call the new year, a year of resistance economy, production and employment,” Khamenei said in his New Year’s message broadcast on state television.
He added: “I feel the pain of the poor and lower class with my soul, especially because of high prices, unemployment and inequalities.”
Khamenei also said that the government’s new economic steps “do not meet people’s expectations and mine.”
In return, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended the economic achievements of his government and said it was capable of limiting inflation and improving the agricultural sector and production in the country.
“What we achieved in curbing inflation and boosting economic growth and jobs in a year was unprecedented in the past 25 years,” Rouhani said in a video message aired on state TV.
The term “economic resistance” entered the Iranian dictionary in 2010 when Khamenei used it for the first time to make Iran’s economy more self-sufficient, in contrast to Rouhani’s policy, which aims to make the country more open to international trade and investment.
Khamenei’s supporters have been criticizing Rouhani, particularly after the president made a 2015 deal with world powers on curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.
Iranian moderate and conservative camps have meanwhile exchanged accusations over the economic situation in the country. Both political camps bet on the economic file to run the election campaigns ahead of the presidential polls that are scheduled for May 19.
Last February, one of Rouhani’s top aides revealed that the president will run for another term in office.
His opponents in the conservative camp have still not named their candidate.