Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.
Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.
The Iranian president's promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country's poor – somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons' status.
According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to "irresponsibly and illegally" squander $140 billion. The blame, added the report, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which – according to his criticizers – is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.
Moreover, many of the Iranians who voted him in office are feeling betrayed, faced with mounting financial distress. "Contrary to Ahmadinejad's claims, his policies have only increased poverty and hardship; and the financial gaps have widened since he came to power," said the report in Saramiya.
Hussein Ra'afer, advisor to the Iranian minister of Welfare and Social Security, was quoted as saying that according to the ministry's data, about a third of the Iranians – 20 million people – live under the poverty line, and the government "is not doing anything about the unemployment and drug problems."
Iran's inflation rate is also increasing rapidly, hitting 29.4% in September.
The social gaps are particularly evident between the country's north and it south: The south is mostly occupied by the Sunni minority, who live in poverty; while northern Iran
is where the Shiite
majority lives, and where wealth and luxury can be found. "It is as if there are two countries in Iran," said an Iranian analyst.
Financial experts in Iran are not oblivious to the crisis: earlier in December, a group of them sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in which they harshly criticized his financial policies. "The government's economic policies," said the letter, "is taking a heavy toll on a country in crisis."
Dr. Gil Feiler is founder and managing director of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.
, and Doron Peskin is head of research