Speaking in a press conference, Ali Larijani answered questions on a whole variety of issues. Here are excerpts from his comments.
Iran’s 6th National Development Plan
Efforts were made to realise 2.8 percent of an 8-percent economic growth envisaged in the 6th National Development Plan. A centerpiece of the plan is to wean the country off oil revenues. The nation’s dependence on petroleum earnings must not be more than 20% by 2021.
Three percent of the oil income has been allocated to oil-rich and less developed areas. The MPs have also obliged companies operating in these areas to set aside some funding to help tackle deprivation there. One of the problems which exist regarding underdeveloped areas is that private firms are reluctant to set up shop there. So, private companies which begin operating in such areas will be supported.
Due Regard for Agriculture Sector
Due attention should be paid to the agriculture sector and villages in the 6th National Development Plan. Migration from rural areas is one of the contributors to a rise in the population living on the outskirts of towns and cities. That has created difficulties. The parliament was seeking to strike at the root of the problem. Therefore, it proposed that focus be put on rural development, and it was decided that 5,000 villages be developed each year through joint ventures with the private sector.
In the 6th National Development Plan, one percent of oil and natural gas revenues will be set aside for the development and expansion of the country’s rail transportation system. It was also decided that annually some 270 neighbourhoods in cities be restructured, and the population living in suburbs be reduced by 10%.
Our country is located in a region facing numerous problems in the water sector. This is another issue highlighted in the 6th National Development Plan. Ninety percent of the water consumed in the country goes to the agriculture sector. So, we decided to make an overhaul in that regard. First, we decided to further develop the pressurised irrigation system. The financing will come from the National Development Fund. Another measure to be adopted is to change the cultivation pattern in order to strike an overall balance in cultivating different crops. For example, some provinces face water shortage but they grow rice, so the cultivation pattern should change there. Also on the agenda are desalination projects in provinces adjacent to the sea, which would provide up to 30% of the water needed by the provinces.
The 6th National Development Plan includes a chapter on culture. The bill presented by the administration had some weaknesses in the field of cultural activities. However, some parts were added to it and the chapter on culture was expanded. I think our cultural programs have been basically good, but we should pay more attention to the subject of culture. I’m not satisfied with the budget allocated to the culture sector in the next Iranian Year’s spending package. We don’t have enough resources. We need to wean the culture sector from its dependence on the government.
Government’s Economic Performance
The government has, to some extent, had good performance in realising the Economy of Resistance (economic resilience) idea [proposed by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.] In the agriculture, animal husbandry, mariculture and wheat sectors, for instance, we have witnessed good growth. Good steps have also been taken in the oil sector and petroleum sales are satisfactory. The Health Ministry has also made major strides. We should make up for the shortcomings in other sectors, too.
JCPOA’s Impact on Iran’s Economy
After the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group [known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the JCPOA,] many countries sent representatives to Iran and signed memoranda of understanding with Tehran. Some American banks showed mischievous behavior while some other banks actually began their cooperation with Iran. The volume of foreign investment was not as much as expected. But to my knowledge, some Rls. 9 billion in foreign investment has been finalised. Some may say this is not a considerable figure. Well, it’s the starting point. We need to set the stage for further investment and work in the diplomatic arena as well. We have regarded the issue of economic diplomacy as the centerpiece of diplomatic activities. We should make efforts. The atmosphere is one of competition and, at times, weird mischief making. We all should lay the groundwork for foreign investment.
The commission tasked with realizing the Economy of Resistance idea keeps sending us reports on its decisions and activities. The commission is also going to release an official report to the people. When it comes to the Economy of Resistance initiative, I think we should take the government’s situation into account.
We should see under what circumstances the government is implementing its programs. In the years 2012 and 2013, we had some economic problems concerning inflation and debts. During those years, government’s debts to banks and the private sector amounted to Rls. 500 trillion. Some reports put the figure at Rls. 700 trillion. Now, it falls upon the current administration to settle the debt. It’s a whopping amount. That’s no way to run a country. The current administration has tried to prepare the ground for international investment in Iran.
The government has somehow managed to curb inflation. Everybody should work toward boosting the economy. We should work hard in the domain of economy for several years in order to get out of the current situation. The government gets an average score when it comes to economy.
I’m a friend of [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani. I’m not going to get involved in the upcoming presidential elections. It won’t be expedient for the Parliament to get involved in the election. The MPs didn’t get involved in the previous elections, either.
Alternative Punishments for Death Penalty
As for alternative penalties for capital punishment regarding those convicted of drug offences, I agree that the death penalty should not be used, as much as possible, for offenders convicted of drug-related crimes. However, there are different degrees to this, and the punishment should be deterrent.