Financial Tribune- Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s economic beliefs were based on national development and prosperity, rather than liberalization and free-market economy, said the minister of roads and urban development.
“A war-torn economy desperately in need of extensive reconstruction in different sectors of industries, energy and infrastructure was what former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was left with in 1989. Our country was beset with a host of problems that would go away neither easily nor fast,” Abbas Akhoundi also told the Persian daily Iran in an interview.
Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council and veteran statesman, passed away on Sunday in Tehran at the age of 82 due to a heart attack. He also served as Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, interior minister (1979-80), parliament speaker (1980-89), president (1989-97) and chairman of the Assembly of Experts (2007-11).
“Iran’s priority was economic reconstruction after the devastating war with Iraq in the 1980s,” said Akhoundi who also served as minister of housing and urban development from 1993 to 1997 in the Cabinet of then-president Rafsanjani.
“The ravaged postwar economy required a forward-looking approach toward reconstruction and recovery, and every tool that could be used to that end was welcome. From the participation of private sector to military institutions (such as Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters) to foreign investment resources, they could all be tapped to promote development.”
Asked about the economic achievements and challenges of Hashemi as a president, the minister said, “Given the GDP growth rate of 14.1% under his administration, investment growth rate of 8.3% … and the 9.1% unemployment rate, the high inflation rates recorded under his administration cannot be regarded as a weakness. In fact, today’s semblance of advancement and industrialization are the result of his presidency and it’s unfair to see his government as the prelude to capitalism.”
Akhoundi noted that Hashemi deeply believed in planning and saw lack of national vision plans as one of the main problems of the domestic economy, therefore he founded the post-revolution economic development plans.
In the minister’s words, the distinguished cleric also regarded the private sector as the facilitator of the bruised economy of the postwar era.
“In the early 90s, most economic institutions, including banks, insurance companies, factories and industries belonged to the public sector. Hashemi championed the privatization of state-controlled entities in the Iranian economy. The private sector could now play a crucial role in production, creation of added value, exports and the policies of Article 44 of the constitution were gradually taking effect,” he said.
Akhoundi concluded by saying that unlike some people’s claims, the semi-private sector was not founded under his administration, as Ayatollah Hashemi believed in unlocking the potential of all sectors toward reaching development and prosperity.