Wednesday, September 19, 2007
It's the economy, Mr AhmadinejadThe Iranian president's adherence to 'donkey economics' is damaging his political stock
Robert Tait in Tehran
Wednesday September 19, 2007
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suffered an embarrassing blow to his prestige when his own party attacked him for adopting a jocular tone towards inflation at a time of rampant price rises.
Now the Islamic Revolution Devotees Society, a fundamentalist grouping of revolutionary veterans co-founded by Mr Ahmadinejad himself, has added its voice to a rising chorus of economic discontent by warning the president that spiralling living costs are hurting the poor and undermining his stated goal of social justice.
The society said the government was to blame because it had embarked on extravagant state-funded projects while failing to control the money supply.
"Unrestrained inflation increases the pressure on the weak and leads to the poor becoming poorer as owners of non-monetary assets get richer," it said in a newly published economic report.
"The result is counter to the goals, plans and slogans of Dr Ahmadinejad's government."
The report also accused Mr Ahmadinejad and other officials of refusing to acknowledge the problem, and of making light of it.
"Sometimes some high-rank government officials deny the growth of prices and deal with them through making jokes," it said.
"To deny the current inflation or ignore it through jokes is totally unacceptable."
Mr Ahmadinejad has frequently dismissed complaints of rising prices as the invention of a hostile media, and blamed "secret networks" for rising house prices.
This year, he responded to MPs' protests over the rising price of tomatoes by urging them to visit his local greengrocer in Narmak, in east Tehran.
Mr Ahmadinejad also answered recent criticism of his policies by saying he took advice from his local butcher. "There is an honourable butcher in our neighbourhood who knows all the economic problems of the people. I get my economic information from him," he said.
The latest report implicitly criticised his contemptuous view of economics by describing it as a "specialised science" and warning that Iran's inflationary problems could not be solved by "ad hoc decisions".
That may partly refer to one of Mr Ahmadinejad's most controversial recent moves: ordering banks to cut interest rates to 12% - below inflation, which is estimated at between 20% and 30%.
Mr Ahmadinejad, an engineer with a PhD in traffic management, is on record as saying: "I pray to God I never know about economics."
That echoes a comment attributed to the late Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, who is alleged to have said: "Economics is for donkeys."