Iran General NewsMinister blames Ahmadinejad's policies for economic woes

Minister blames Ahmadinejad’s policies for economic woes

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ImageAP: Iran's outgoing economy minister blames President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies for high inflation and growing economic hardships, according to comments published in Iranian newspapers Wednesday.

The Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

ImageTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's outgoing economy minister blames President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies for high inflation and growing economic hardships, according to comments published in Iranian newspapers Wednesday.

The hardline president failed to listen to opinions and solutions offered by experts, adding to the country's economic woes, said outgoing minister Davood Danesh Jafari.

The biting comments came on Tuesday, Jafari's last day on the job as economy minister. He was replaced by Ahmadinejad this week, apparently over policy differences, and named presidential adviser — a ceremonial post that carries no weight.

Iran has seen prices for fruit and vegetables almost quadruple in the past year, and housing prices have tripled since last summer. The Central Bank of Iran has put inflation at 17.8 percent from February 2007 to February 2008.

The country also has high unemployment, which government statistics place at 10 percent but economists say it could be higher than 30 percent.

Ahmadinejad defended his policies Wednesday in the western Iranian town of Hamedan, in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Keeping interest rates fixed or increasing them is the "root cause of injustice … and inflation," Ahmadinejad said, adding that he would keep resisting experts who advise an increase in interest rates.

"Those who are not for this, have to step away please," Ahmadinejad said.

The president has made several Cabinet changes since his victory in 2005, but he is now facing increasingly fierce criticism for his failure to meet his election promises of bringing oil revenues to every family, eradicating poverty and tackling unemployment.

Ahmadinejad is also being challenged by some of the same conservatives who paved the way for his presidency. They say he has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. rhetoric and not enough on the economy.

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