* Rouhani says Ahmadinejad added to inflation and debt
* Government's priority is to bring down inflation
* Easing of sanctions will not have immediate effect
By Isabel Coles
DUBAI, Nov 27 President Hassan Rouhani said
Iran's economic problems went beyond sanctions, blaming
"unparalleled stagflation" on the profligacy and mismanagement
of his predecessor, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In office from 2005 until August, Ahmadinejad presided over
a period of unprecedented revenue growth due to high oil prices
but, analysts say, squandered much of it on subsidies that
pumped money into the economy and drove up inflation.
He also antagonised the United States and the West by
threatening to wipe Israel off "the page of time", repeated
denials of the Holocaust and an uncompromising stance on Iran's
disputed nuclear programme.
"The stagflation in 1391 was unparalleled," Rouhani said,
referring to the Iranian year that ended in March. During that
year, the economy contracted by 6 percent, while inflation rose
above 40 percent, he said.
The International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy will
shrink 1.5 percent this year in inflation-adjusted terms, after
an estimated 1.9 percent contraction last year which was the
biggest since 1988, when Iran's eight-year war with Iraq ended.
Despite receiving 600 billion dollars in oil revenue over
the past eight years, Rouhani said the legacy of Ahmadinejad's
two terms was around $67 billion dollars of debt. Iran's nominal
GDP was $549 billion in 2012 and will shrink to $389 billion in
2013, according to the IMF's October outlook.
"These facts show the conditions we inherited from the
previous government and in what conditions we must grapple with
the problems," Rouhani said in a speech late on Tuesday to mark
his first 100 days in office.
Rouhani secured a landslide election victory in June
promising a policy of "constructive engagement" with the outside
world would help ease international sanctions on the Islamic
Republic imposed over its nuclear programme. Iran denies seeking
to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
An interim deal with six world powers clinched in Geneva on
Sunday promises to bring some $7 billion-worth of relief from
those sanctions, but most of the measures remain in place and
Rouhani said it would take time for the economy to improve.
Nouriel Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics and an
economics professor at New York University's Stern School of
Business said that at this stage, the sanctions lifted would not
make a big difference.
"It will still be an economy severely constrained by the
fact that most of the most important sanctions are still there
and, rightly, the U.S. and great powers are cautious," he said
on the sidelines of a financial conference in Dubai.
"They want to see that Iran is not bluffing."
U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran's oil, shipping and banking
sectors halved Iranian crude exports, helped fuel inflation and
unemployment and drive down the value of the rial, which gained
about 3 percent following Sunday's deal.
"I don't want to say that all the economic problems are
related to the sanctions. A major part of the problem is related
to mismanagement," he said.
Rouhani said reducing inflation was a priority. Inflation
had fallen to 36 percent by the end of October and the
government aimed to bring it below 25 percent by the end of the
following Iranian year - March 2015 in the Western calendar.
The government would also reform the banking system but
reforms of Ahmadinejad's expensive subsidy programme, under
which most Iranian families receive state handouts, would have
to wait until a second phase.
Rouhani also said his government aimed to promote
agriculture in order to reduce Iran's dependence on imports:
"When you are in a struggle against the world, you have to rely
on yourself. You can't confront the world with slogans".