At a cabinet session on September 17, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his joy for not being toppled so far. He mentioned past tough days and statistics that show negative economic growth in the spring. “During the past three months, our economic growth was -0.6 percent, according to an announcement by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI),” the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
However, the question is, why does the president of a religious state resort to charlatanism, and what is his purpose? “At the Statistic Center’s report, which is the main source for economic stats, the country’s economic growth by taking oil sales into account has reached -3.5 percent. And economic growth by excluding oil sales is estimated at -1.7 percent for the spring period,” Eghtesad News website wrote on September 14.
Earlier, in an Instagram post, CBI chief Abdolnasser Hematti had announced that this spring’s economic growth was -2.8 percent. Notably, the CBI had declared that the economic growth by excluding oil sales was -0.6 percent; Rouhani announced the same number.
In fact, he preferred to endorse the statistics provided by his appointee as the CBI chief instead of accepting the Statistics Center data. Rouhani probably did not expect anyone to listen to his remarks carefully, and he didn’t think anyone would check the accuracy of this misinformation. He also blamed his critics for the country’s negative economic growth. “At least, tell the truth about our economic growth,” Rouhani added.
Conflicts Among Statisticians
Today, there are only a handful of non-developed states those have disagreeing statistics centers. The Iranian government is one of the most controversial of them. For many years, there has been a war of attrition between the Iranian Statistics Center and the CBI over economic stats.
A few years ago, the Rouhani administration voted for the Statistics Center to become the primary source of financial figures. However, the CBI still releases its own statistics. In this respect, politicians reiterate the stats based on their interests, like today, when Rouhani has violated his administration’s decree to downplay the government’s economic failures even by a small amount.
Previously, on July 26, Daneshju news agency questioned the chief of Statistics Center Javad Hosseinzadeh about contradictory figures. “For many years, the Statistics Center and the CBI provide stats of macroeconomic indicators about the economic growth rate and inflation. Sometimes, there is an apparent difference between the declared stats by these two centers. Is it possible for one economy to have two different figures over economic indicators in one year?” the Daneshju reporter asked.
In response, Hosseinzadeh denied the CBI’s interference in his department’s professional task and obliquely blamed the CBI for devaluating the national currency. “Statistics Centers are tasked to produce official stats across the globe. In all countries across the world, the body that has been tasked with and established for statistical purposes is the Statistics Center or the National Statistics Organizations… The CBI’s main goal is to adopt monetary and financial policies and preserve the national currency value,” he said.
The Statistics Center’s Figures Are Too Unbelievable
For nearly half a century, the Statistics Center has been responsible for announcing details of the country’s economic indicators. However, this center has been placed at the center of distrust and criticism. “The rest of criticisms are related to the center’s influence on the government and the inconsistency of the announced statistics with the market realities and the living conditions of the people,” wrote Jam-e Jam daily, affiliated with the state-run broadcasting organization (IRIB), on July 20.
Notably, at the June 14 cabinet session, Rouhani cited the CBI’s 2019 stats and announced, “2019’s economic growth by excluding oil sales was 1.1 percent.” The Statistics Center had declared -7 percent for 2019’s economic growth by taking oil sales into account and -0.6 percent by excluding the oil sales.
However, according to the World Bank’s estimation, Iran’s economic growth was -2.8 percent in 2019. This international body has also predicted that the Iranian economy would shrink by 3.5 percent in 2020, then it will experience a 1.2-percent growth in 2021 with the passing of the recession.
15-Percent Decrease in GDP
“In a public Parliament (Majlis) session, Farhad Dezhpasand, the Economy Minister, announced that Iran’s economic growth was negative such as the past Persian calendar year. He acknowledged that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has decreased by 15 percent due to the coronavirus outbreak. The International Monetary Fund had forecasted that Iran’s economic recession would reach 6 percent due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the drop in global oil price,” the Persian edition of Euro News reported on June 7.
In such circumstances, Rouhani disclaimed any responsibility for the country’s dire economy. He tried to create the impression that he is concerned. However, he simultaneously laid the blame on “high-prices” that oppress the people, even though he is the second-highest-ranking official in Iran and the country’s fate depends on his decisions and roadmap.
Of course, Rouhani’s baseless claims in the economic sector is merely a part of his deceptive behavior and remarks. On the other hand, on September 16, he had congratulated “the U.S. defeat” by triggering the dispute mechanism on Saturday and Sunday while he had built up his career on tricking the international community and forcing them to sign a defective nuclear agreement.
In response to Rouhani’s happiness, Vatan-e Emruz daily mentioned his previous praises for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and taking away the shadow of war. “What Hassan Rouhani calls victory is truly a technical and legal defeat for the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team at the nuclear negotiations,” the daily wrote.
Iranian authorities, including the supreme leader Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani, intend to rein in the society’s growing ire through hollow comments. However, their claims aren’t welcome anymore, even among the forces loyal to the theocracy. Economic pressures have debilitated and hindered the people, pushing them to pursue a way of being free from the painful consequences of clerics’ rule.