Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s centrist president, last week marked his government’s 100th day in office by releasing a report on the economy. It painted a grim picture, but rather than blame this on international sanctions Mr Rouhani said the populist policies of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, were largely responsible for the mess.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government enjoyed a record $600bn in oil revenues during eight years in office – the equivalent of what the country had earned in the century since it first discovered oil.
Despite the boost in income, Mr Rouhani said he inherited an empty treasury, at least $80bn in debt and a combination of high inflation (40 per cent) and economic stagnation (the economy shrank by 5.8 per cent), which was unprecedented in the past 50 years. “The previous government was the wealthiest and most indebted government,” he said.
Many economists are asking how any government can inflict such damage on an economy during an oil boom, with some saying Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s policies should be taught in economics courses to show how a populist president can turn golden opportunities into disasters. Read more
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Tehran (Getty)
By Aranya Jain
Iran goes to the polls today, with 6 candidates competing to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a group largely consisting of regime loyalists. The turbulent politics of the election and the large variety of support groups involved make the result unpredictable, with further ambiguity arising from the supreme leader’s claims that he has no favourite to win. These articles are the best guide on what to expect. Read more
The visit of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad to Cairo on Tuesday marked the first time an Iranian leader has been to Egypt since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. At a press conference he said he hoped the trip would be “a new starting point in relations between us”.
But the Iranian president, who is a Shia Muslim, suffered two awkward moments during his visit. He was reprimanded by the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, who warned him against seeking the “extension of Shia reach”, pressed for Sunni Muslims in Iran to be given full rights, and told Ahmadi-Nejad to hold back from interfering in Gulf Arab states.
Then, as the Iranian president visited a mosque, a man tried to strike him with a shoe. Read more
Gideon became chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times in July 2006. He joined the FT after a 15-year career at The Economist, which included spells as a foreign correspondent in Brussels, Washington and Bangkok. He also edited The Economist’s business and Asia sections.
His particular interests include American foreign policy, the European Union and globalisation.