TEHRAN, (Reuters) – A former Iranian president criticised hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic policy on Friday, saying it was a serious issue that may harm the clerical establishment.
The remarks by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were among the harshest public criticism of Ahmadinejad made in recent days by several prominent figures in Iran. “The economy and high inflation are … issues that should be taken seriously,” Rafsanjani told worshippers at Tehran University, gathered on Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of the sacrifice.
“The problem can harm Iran and the Islamic revolution,” the influential cleric said in a live broadcast on state media.
Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005 on a pledge to share out Iran’s oil wealth more fairly, has come under criticism at home for failing to tackle inflation in the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.
Consumer prices in the country rose 19.1 percent in the year to Nov. 22, according to central bank figures, but many ordinary Iranians complain official data does not correspond to price rises they see in shops.
Ahmadinejad on Sunday blamed rising prices on several factors, including Iran’s large amounts of subsidies, rapid liquidity growth and the country’s dependence on imports and the U.S. dollar, which has declined in value on world markets.
Rafsanjani is an adviser to Iran’s most powerful authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. “It (the economic problems) is tangible for all Iranians and cannot be ignored by providing … wrong statistics to people,” said Rafsanjani, who also heads powerful cleric-run bodies, the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council.
Economists say profligate spending of Iran’s oil revenue is stoking inflation in the state-dominated economy, which has reaped windfall gains from high crude price in recent years. “One of the (U.S.-backed toppled) Shah’s mistakes was increasing imports to satisfy Iranians relying on the windfall oil earnings at the time,” Rafsanjani said. “That is a temporary solution maybe for one year. But it will harm production and will make the economy even weaker.
Former president Mohammad Khatami and former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, along with many reformist political parties, have been increasingly public in their criticism of Ahmadinejad, accusing him of mismanaging a nuclear standoff with the West and the failing economy.
Rafsanjani insisted Iran’s atomic work was peaceful and called on the West to resolve the issue diplomatically.