Friday, 28 December 2012

Iran Live Coverage: The Economic Crisis Claims the Minister of Health

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi0635 GMT: The Battle Within. The political fallout from President Ahmadinejad's firing of the Minister of Health has begun.

Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- key MP, former Speaker of Parliament, leading member of the Supreme Leader's camp --- said on Thursday that Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi's dismissal had two negative effects. He said that it will disappoint qualified women and --- getting to the heart of the politics and economics --- that no minister can accomplish much in the remaining months of the Ahmadinejad Government.

0615 GMT: For Western observers, the distinction of President Ahmadinejad's firing on Wednesday of his Minister of Health, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, lay in the dismissal of the Islamic Republic's first-ever female Minister.

While notable, that headline obscured the far more significant intersection of politics and economics.

Dastjerdi has been under political pressure for months, accused by some MPs --- to the point of threatened impeachment --- of mismanagement that led to shortages of drugs and medical supplies. 

Whether or not Dastjerdi was competent, she served primiarily as a scapegoat, so others who are more important within the regime can avoid obvious problems. For example, while Iranian media in recent weeks have discovered the story tha sanctions have crippled Iran's health care, Ahmadinejad --- given that he said earlier this year that those sanctions were "worthless paper" --- could not easily grab that excuse.

And Dastjerdi, hitting back at her critics, threatened to expose the real difficulty. In recent weeks, she was more and more vocal that the Central Bank was to blame for the medical crisis, as it was refusing to release $2 billion in foreign currency for purchases of necessary imports.

That allegation goes to the heart of Iran's economic predicament. The Islamic Republic faces a fall of about 40% in its foreign-exchange revenues this year because of the drop in oil exports. At the same time, it has probably had to use up foreign reserves not only for imports, but also in an emergency intervention to prop up a currency that had fallen 70% this year.

So a vital question in this episode of Iran's first-hired and first-fired female Minister: did the Central Bank withhold the $2 billion because the Islamic Republic's foreign reserves --- estimated at about $80 billion at the end of 2011 --- are running low?

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

Posted via email from lissping