Candidates face each other in first televised debate

June 6, 2021 - 22:1

TEHRAN – The first televised debates among seven presidential candidates were held on Saturday afternoon.

The hot debates took place between five principlist candidates - especially Saeed Jalili, Alireza Zakani, and Mohsen Rezaei - with Nasser Hemmati.

The main contention was over an approval of FATF and skyrocketing prices, which most candidates held the central bank responsible for.

Some analysts said the debates had no clear winner and that candidates mostly trade accusations against each other rather than elaborate on their plans.

Hemmati was claiming that most candidates were making attacks against him which was not fair.

A presidential candidate, Nasser Imani, said the days left to the election day are important. The debate may not have a great influence on the number of people who will participate in the elections but they make shape the views of those who will vote, Imani stated.

Ebrahim Raeisi: Motivated producers are facing problems

Presidential contender Ebrahim Raeisi said today producers who have great motivation and new ideas to stimulate the economy are facing problems.

In order to create a favorable economic situation, the production sector should be strengthened, Raeisi suggested.

“We should create motivation for production and reduce motivation for non-producing sectors,” the cleric presidential candidate suggested.

Raeisi cited monopolization and an excess of regulations as the main impediments to the activities of the private sector.

He said the motivation for directing liquidity to foreign currency, gold and land property should lose its appeal. Raeisi also called trafficking of goods to the country as one of the hurdles which make the production sector suffer losses. He also said if he is elected president, he will reduce tax burden on the production sector.

Raeisi said he is serious in his view for a tight presidential competition and high voter turnout. He said based on opinion polls the people want officials show honesty.

“It is too bad that somebody as a presidential candidate tries to damage others in order to win votes,” Raeisi said in response to accusations by Mohsen Mehr Alizadeh and Hemmati.

In an open reference to the 2017 elections, he said if defamation and insults were influential in helping to resolve problems, many candidates traded accusations and made insults against others in the previous rounds of presidential debates.

“Haven’t you been tired of leveling allegations and making insults,” the presidential contender remarked. He added, “There is no problem if problems are resolved through insults and allegations against me.”

The candidate said he is talking to people honestly. He noted opponents of the Islamic Republic have been mobilized against him and unfortunately certain candidates (Hemmati and Mehr Alizadeh) have adopted such an approach toward him.

He also said since he has taken over as Judiciary chief, he has not ordered the closure of a website or a newspaper. “I have not also lodged a complaint against anybody who has criticized me.”

The presidential hopeful also defended his visits to manufacturing units that have faced problems and holding meetings with entrepreneurs. At the same time, he said, he is vising prisons.  He made these remarks in response to Hemmati that asked why Raeisi was visiting manufacturing units that were not related to his job.

The Judiciary chief said the causes of economic corruption should be uprooted which are being mostly produced by the executive body.

Injudicious measures create a foundation for corruption which the Judiciary should deal with, Raeisi lamented. He added people know well that “we don’t have red line” in cracking down on corruption and favoritism.

Today the government should counter loopholes that lead to “judicial files”.

He lambasted skyrocketing prices, saying housing prices have increased by about seven times, cars by eight times, etc. 

For example, he said, the subsidized foreign currency has caused many problems for the judicial system, calling for market stability. He said the new government should take steps toward single-rate foreign currency.

He also said the country is lagging behind in cyberspace because there is a problem with the infrastructure system.

Jalili: There should be a will to fight poverty

Saeed Jalili: In the first televised debates, candidates asked about certain issues. On what is his plan in the next four years if he is elected as president, Jalili said, “One of the problems that we have had is that from an economic point of view people and poor people have not been given priority.”

Jalili said one of the main discussions by the late Imam Khomeini was to counter poverty.

In republicanism as a great legacy of Imam Khomeini due attention must be paid to the well-being of people, he noted.

“One should have plan for countering poverty but before making plans one should have belief and the will” to counter poverty, remarked said, the former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

He suggested that “certain major measures should be taken to reduce poverty.”

 For example, he said, the citizens should be given an equal share in energy subsidy.  Jalili said if he is elected president, he will materialize this goal.

Jalili said his second plan is to give food baskets to the poor classes of society. He added support for the poor should not just be restricted to the “first basic rights,” but it should also include travel and health service. Jalili said he has a “detailed plan for trip,” which is possible with the available facilities.

He added people are asking if the answer to economic problems is clear, then why nothing is done.

Jalili said the important point is that “you know the answers” to the problems but the point is that there should be a will for resolving these problems and have a firm idea that they will be countered.

He also answered to Hemmati who sees some economic problems for refusal by the Expediency Council to approve the FATF (the Financial Action Task Force), saying, “When you look at the country’s problem in this way it leads to the current situation.”

Jalili said the government has accepted 39 articles out of 41 of the FATF, but the international body has not accepted them from Iran. He said certain countries have not implemented the FATF as much as Iran. “You (Hemmati) say that all the country’s problems are rooted in not accepting the FATF… this lack of correct understanding will not help you.”

He also accused Hemmati of being a part of the problem. Jalili also asked Hemmati about those who are hugely indebted to banks, but the central bank has done nothing tangible in this regard.

Jalili said during the eight years of the Rouhani administration, “Mr. Hemmati himself acknowledge that 11 persons were indebted 90 trillion tomans (22 billion dollars) to banks.  He said this has made the situation worse. Asking, “So what has been your duty”?

Jalili added there are two views, saying one view says let’s manage the country “by force” and then bring pretext for others. However, there are other views that says the country has capacities and “we not only can manage the country with a reliance on expert youth but also make the country to make a leap.”

 The former chief nuclear negotiator said Hemmati clearly says the country cannot be managed in this way. “I say you cannot do it.”

Jalili cited an example, saying in 2015, the year the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was signed, he had warned that based on “this document sanctions will not be lifted.”

He said, “If in the next four years we do not just want to manage the country but create a situation to make it jump, we should have serious plan for the country’s economy. We should not invent pretexts.”

The former top security official said a jump in the production sector will lead to an increase in national currency. He said a jump in production will happen when there is an increase in export and this is possible when the country has extensive interaction with the world and “not just wait for a few countries.”

He asked Hemmati if you know how to run the county then why Iran’s export to 28 European countries is half of the country’s exports to Afghanistan.

The presidential candidate said different sectors should help produce income for the country and they should not just wait for the Oil Ministry, adding ministries of agriculture, industries, science and foreign affairs should help to increase the country’s foreign income.

He said even when Iran’s oil export is not subject to sanctions, the country can make money twice the oil export through the export of agriculture, mines, gas and electricity.

Jalili went on to say that a jump in petrochemicals, oil, gas and efficient use of energy can lead to a jump in job employment.

Zakani: Banks print money without the supervision of central bank

Alireza Zakani criticized heavy liquidity in the country, putting it at 3,500 billion tomans ($830 million). Zakani said banks are printing money outside the monitoring of the central bank.

Zakani said every day, about 1,000 billion tomans ($240 million) are added to the liquidity and this large amount of money has caused an increase in demand for foreign currency, gold, house, and cars.

This is while many production centers suffer from financial problems, he pointed out.

He rebuked Hemmati for the sharp devaluation of national currency, saying Hemmati says he is an economist “while in my view he should be given a Nobel prize in chemistry” because he has greatly depreciated national currency.

On remarks by Hemmati, who said the suggestions by certain candidates would lead to “distribution of poverty,” Zakani accused him of being an accomplice in “distribution of poverty.”

He also reacted to Hemmati, who criticized the Guardian Council for disqualifying certain candidates, saying, “If it was going to confirm other persons (candidates) you should not have been here.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, he said banks have created a situation in which 11 persons owe the banks 90 trillion tomans. He said there are many who get loans from banks but don’t use that loan for the intended essential purposes.

He asked Hemmati who are these persons who are hugely indebted to banks and why there is such disorder in different banks. “Where do banking corruption originate?” he asked.

Zakani said, unfortunately, great debtors to banks are those who have no “active role” in the economic sector.  Rather, he said, they use these huge amounts of bank loans to create turbulence in the economy.

The greatest service that Hemmati should have done was to regulate the monetary and banking system, but “unfortunately he has not done that.”

He also reacted strongly to a claim by Hemmati that he would finally withdraw candidacy in favor of Raisi, saying, “I request Mr. Hemmati to speak scientifically, precisely, and in an expert manner and do not make accusations.”

Zakani also said due attention should be paid to the economy, management, culture, society, politics and foreign policy.

He said if he wins presidency, he will focus on a jump in the production sector and decentralizing the management system. Zakani said he will focus on electronic government, counter economic corruption and try to create a sustainable economic environment, promote justice, increase wealth, etc.

Zakani, who holds a Ph.D. in nuclear medicine, said he will try to remove barriers to production. He said the government is the greatest obstacle to production sector and called banks the greatest competitor to the production sector. He claimed if the North-South corridor is activated, it can bring the country 30 billion dollars income. Zakani, a sitting MP who currently heads the Parliament Research Center, said contrary to claims by Hemmati, he is not seeking to distribute poverty and instead will try to create a jump in the production sector and “distribute wealth”.

He also said he will focus on provinces to delegate responsibilities to local officials in different provinces, especially the least developed ones.

On a question that oil has made government economically incapable, he said in the past the governments relied on oil money and the Rouhani administration tried to run his administration through “the people’s pocket” and “feed on inflation.”

He also pointed to tax evasion, saying today there is 200,000 billion tomans ($47 billion) tax evasions and the same amount of tax waivers. In general, there is 720,000 billion tomans ($170 billion) in tax arrears.

He also accused Hemmati that he represents the government in the election trying to justify eight years of government performance.

 Mehr Alizadeh: Management in my government will be rational, pragmatic

Pro-reform candidate Mohsen Mehr Alizadeh said if he is elected as president, he will follow a rational managerial system and that his approach is pragmatic and that one of his priorities is focused on the production sector.

“Management in my government will be rational, pragmatic and production-oriented,” he remarked.

 He said his main plan is to build houses, create jobs and provide an environment for activities for realizing the talents of the youth.

He also expressed regret over a rise in poverty in the country, saying statistics show that about 50 percent of the population live under the poverty line.

Mehr Alizadeh also accused Raeisi that he cannot draw up plans to run the country because he is not proficient in economy.

He accused Raeisi of repeating the words of some experts, saying masses are suffering from economic problems and these problems are mostly rooted in different sectors, including lack of enough export. He added 70 percent of the production sector is dormant. 

Mehr Alizadeh, who said he has is an engineer and has a Ph.D. in economic management, said making accusations have become a norm and certain “have no brake” in making accusations.

He went on to say that one of the major problems that the country has been grappling with since the 1979 Islamic Revolution is that there has never been a “proper model” for running the country. For example, one government followed a neo-liberal economy, another socialist policies, etc.

The presidential candidate suggested the model that European countries, especially Germany, have been following can resolve problems in the country.

He also said his government will seek to remove impediments in the production sector, facilitate production activities and introduce tax waivers for producers.

Mehr Alizadeh also said he will strengthen the Environment Protection Organization. He warned if attention is not paid to the environment, the country will face a water crisis in the future.

Mohsen Rezaei: I won’t say anything other than truth

Mohsen Rezaei said he has entered the presidential race to defend the Iranian nation.

Before the debates officially start, Rezaei said, “Those who have caused such a situation in the country are my competitors.”

He added, “I will adopt nothing other than telling the truth.”

The former IRGC chief went on to say that he had warned the electorate about the uselessness of President Hassan Rouhani’s “key”.

“Eight years ago, in this place I warned about that ‘useless key’. I showed you a 1,000 tomans (about 20 cents) and warned if this trend continues our national currency will fall.”

He said the relations between government and the people has not been regulated based on “relations between government and economy, and relations between economy and the people.”

The presidential hopeful said the government “put its hands in the pocket of the people and the central bank with the help of Mr. Hemmati and his friend adopted such a policy.”

He also said the Rouhani government increased the value of the foreign currency to counter the budget deficit and encourage people to buy shares in the stock market and then when they met their goal of gaining money, they kept the people helpless (share prices fall sharply).

During the presidential debates, Rezaei said if he is elected president, he will ban Hemmati from leaving the country and lodge a complaint against him.

Rezaei has called his government “the government of action and reform.”

During the debate, Rezaei also several times pointed that his government will make use of the potential of all Iranians with different ethnicities and religions.

“In the government of action and reform… I will make use of all competent Iranians.”

He also said he will employ Iranians abroad in his government.

“In the government of action and reform…..I will make use of Iranians inside and outside the country, different ethnic groups, minorities, reformists, principlists, independents and any capable person who is able to do something.”

Rezaei also said he will make use of competent persons in the current and previous governments. The former IRGC chief said only those who have been involved in corruption will have no place in his administration.

Rezaei also vowed to pay salaries to housewives.

Qazizadeh Hashemi: National currency can gain its status if we can control inflation

Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi suggested his solution for raising the value of national currency, saying, “If we consider inflation as the mother of problems, then we can protect the value of national currency.”

“In our country the officials, instead of guarding the value of national currency they have become the guardian of foreign currency.”

He added, “I wish the chief of the central bank (Hemmati) consider himself as responsible for protecting the value of rial (national currency) instead of dollar.”

He said his government has introduced a project which includes 213 articles that more than 50 of them are about how to control inflation and make banking and budget structural reforms.

The presidential candidate said the major section of the budget deficit is compensated through inflation, describing inflation as a lasting tax imposed on the poor people which its money goes to the pocket of government and the rich, and this has been the norm over the past 50 or 60 years.

He added, “We seek to develop production, reinforcing production, redirecting liquidity, and controlling prices in the market.”

Qazizadeh also said it is regrettable that economic debates are being derailed by making accusations, creating a division in the society, trading insults and presenting no plans.

He said his government pays special attention to management and fighting corruption.

The sitting MP also said now the greatest favoritism is bank loans because the interest rate for loans is less than the inflation rate and this has created an impetus among debtors not to pay back loans.

He also said 65 percent of bank loans is given to the rich classes of society. Qazizadeh also said about 70 percent of bank loans are granted to Tehran but 25 provinces jut get 20 percent.

The presidential candidate also said the way to running the country is “outdated”.

“Our rules about commerce, insurance, and banking should be restructured. However, now the problem is the government’s knee is on people’s neck.”

Qazizadeh said his team has crafted a plan that during four years the inflation rate will fall under five percent.

“We have also made plans to resolve the youth’s employment and marriage.” 

He added, “We also want to establish the ministry of family.”

On how to fight unfettered importation of goods, he said, “Now we are facing the great and complicated mafia, which through favoritism, has been given the permission to receive foreign currency at a cheap price and threatens production sector through monopoly and imports.”

Nasser Hemmati: Promises by rival cannot be materialized

Nasser Hemmati who was boasting of his academic career as a professor of economics accused his rivals of not knowing even the A, B, C of economics and thereby they cannot manage the country. 

He also said the economic promises given by his presidential rivals cannot be realized because the country does not have the necessary resources.

“I am economist. We don’t have necessary sources (money) and I don’t lie to win votes. Many of the promises given by the Mrs. cannot be materialized.

He said as the central banker he is aware of details of the country’s economic situation.

He promised to make the “cake of economy greater and distribute it more fairly.”

“We need economic reform.”

Hemmati also rebuked Rezaei for delaying decision to approve the FATF in the Expediency Council for six months despite and order by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Rezaei is the secretary of the Expediency Council.

Hemmati also made the claim that except Mehr Alizadeh the other candidates are seeking to garner votes for Raeisi.

He said if they don’t swear that they will stay in the race util the election date he will not give answer to them and just answers to remarks by Raeisi.

The former chief banker said it is unfair to blame the central bank for all the problems.

Hemmati also said he was dismissed as central banker due to differences with President Rouhani.

He also rejected that he represents Rouhani in the presidential campaigns, saying, “I am not the representative of Mr. Rouhani. I was dismissed from the central bank because of differences of opinion that I had with him.”

Hemmati added that Rouhani also suffers from lack of knowledge about economics.

“He also had your problems and did not have economic view and this was my problem.”

He repeated his previous statement that politicians leave the race for the post of president for economists and let them manage the country. 

He defended his record as the governor of the central back, saying he took over the post when the foreign currency market was highly volatile. 

Hemmati said if it was not because of economic shrewdness the Iranian economy would become like Venezuela.  “I prevented a Venezuelization of the economy.”

On why the value of dollar in the face of national currency have increased by about seven times, he said in the normal conditions Iran had an income of 50 to 60 billion dollars, but over the past three years the flow of income has been reduced to 9 billion dollars and in such a situation what the central could have done.

He said based on these nine billion dollars the value of dollars should have increased to 55000 tomans per dollar but is now about 22,000 tomans.

He accused his candidates for the current economic situation by refusing to approve the FATF.

He accused Jalili of knowing nothing about commerce and economy. He also made stinging attacks against Rezaei.

“Mr.  Jalili I said in the Expediency Council that you don’t understand economic and commerce. Is it true or not?  When you don’t know the basics of commercial issue why do you decide for the Iranian nation.

In an interview on Sunday, Hemmati suggested that the government, instead of interfering in the market, should take actions that the market finds its right path.

It is not possible to control the market through command pricing.

“Pricing should be delegated to the market. Entry into command pricing means entering into distribution of favoritism which is not controllable,” Hemmati pointed out.

The market itself should fix itself and the government should monitor that it would act correctly. 

“This is my most important policy and plan for controlling the market.”

Writing on his Twitter account on Sunday, Hemmati said it was unfortunate that in the presidential debates no candidate asked about two important things: The effects of the toughest sanctions war in the history of the war against the Iranian economy by the Trump administration and the effects of Coronavirus that has taken the lives of tens of our countrymen.

*(the dollar calculus is based on  official rate of 4,200 tomans)

PA/PA

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