How would Rouhani's new cabinet shape Iran's economic policies? (Exclusive)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug 9

By Farhad Daneshvar – Trend:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his cabinet to the Parliament for a vote of confidence on Tuesday, bringing about considerable changes to his economic team, which could indicate his economic policies for the four-year term.

It seems that the new administration would tend to take conservative measures aimed at facilitating a better coordination between various parts of the country’s economy, in a bid to enhance international cooperation.

Rouhani has re-appointed Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and Agricultural Minister Mahmoud Hojjati. President has also kept Abbas Akhoundi as Minister of Transportasion.

Mohammad Shariatmadari, who has been named as Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade, is among new members of the cabinet. Masoud Karbasian is another newcomer of Rouhani’s economic team, who is expected to serve as Minister of Economy, once he secures the vote of confidence from the Parliament. Habibollah Bitaraf has been nominated for the post of Energy Minister.

Economy Minister

Proposed Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian over the past four years has served as Deputy Economy Minister and the head of Iran’s Customs Administration.

He is planning to implement the policies, which will bring more transparency in economy, speed up interaction with the world and strengthen the private sector.

“Masoud Karbasian has expertise in general policy-making process and is considered to be a technocrat, who enjoys proper relations with most of political fractions and wings in Iran,” Mehrdad Seyed Asgari, Norway-based Iranian financial analyst, told Trend.

“However Karbasian, who holds doctoral degree in Management and Planning, appears to lack the knowledge of dealing with (at least some areas of) Iran’s complicated economy,” he added.

“Karbasian, however, performed greatly carrying out reforms in the country’s Customs Administration during the first term of President Rouhani,” Mehrdad Seyed Asgari stated.

Industry, Mine and Trade Minister

Mohammad Shariatmadari served as the Vice President of Executive Affairs during Presidnet Rouhani’s first term.

Enhancing the performance of the Ministry, improving the business environment in the country through increasing competitiveness, booming the country’s industrial exports and backing private sector appear to be among his main tasks over the next four years.

Attracting foreign direct investment and helping the country become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are other major tasks for the newcomer.

“Mohammad Shariatmadari is a pro-reform figure that enjoys great support from the Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,” Mehrdad Seyed Asgari said.

“He has a good record in trade sector and is capable of developing inter-agency coordination between the three sector of economy, namely, industry, trade and mine, as well as other sub-sectors.”

“He has rarely come under the criticism of the opponents of the government due to his close ties with the Supreme Leader’s Office,” Mehrdad Seyed Asgari suggested.

Energy Minister:

Coming to the post of Minister of Energy it is noteworthy to mention that Habibollah Bitarf has been involved in the construction of several dams in Iran, which has caused sharp criticism over its role in the climate change of the country.

Financial Tribune, Iranian English-Language news site, earlier reported that Iran is the world’s third leading country in dam construction, with some 200 contracting companies, 70 consultant firms and 30 corporations as well as hundreds of hydroelectric manufacturing units operating projects in 40 countries.

Experts say heedless dam construction poses a threat to the environment, desiccating some of the country's water-rich areas.

Over the past three decades, for the purposes of irrigation and energy production 600 dams were built, an average of 20 per year.

Iran's average precipitation has fallen to 205 mm in the past 15 years, down from 250 mm some 15 years ago. Average rainfall throughout the world is around 750 mm, while Iran’s annual precipitation is only a third of that figure. 2013 study by the World Resources Institute ranked Iran as the world’s 24th most water-stressed nation, putting it at extremely high risk of future water scarcity.

Oil Minister:

“Despite all criticism over Iran’s recent oil deal with Total, reappointing Zanganeh as Oil Minister proves that Rouhani is satisfied with his performance and the President is determined in continuing his previous policies on oil and gas, tough this may step up the pressure on his administration”

Back in July French Total, with 50.1 percent stake, signed a $4.8 billion worth agreement with Iran to develop the phase 11 of South Pars gas field, causing bitter criticism from Rouhani’s opponents.

“President Hassan Rouhani’s decision on the new members of the next administration suggests that he is going to continue the conservative polices on economy aimed at expanding the counties ties with the outside world,” the expert concluded.

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