Iran’s Rouhani looks to reopen economy despite health officials’ warnings

Al-Monitor – In the fight against the novel coronavirus, Iran has been slow to implement the severe lockdown measures seen in other high-case countries such as Italy due to economic concerns around providing basic services for its population while the country is under US sanctions. On March 27, as cases continued to grow, Iran implemented what it called social distancing measures that restricted travel outside of home provinces and closed most office buildings and nonessential businesses.

Now, due to economic concerns, the president has called for the reopening of certain sectors of the economy by April 8 in what he is calling a “smart social distancing” policy. In an April 5 cabinet meeting, Rouhani said, “Although the responsibility of the administration is to support the classes most at risk, at the same time it has a responsibility to provide all the necessary conditions for employment and business. Therefore with the protection of health as a priority and with all the necessary health protocols, we must adopt measures to move the wheel of the economy.”

To meet economic needs, Rouhani had previously made a request for a 1 billion euro withdrawal from the country’s National Development Fund that was approved today, April 6, by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The request to withdraw from the country’s sovereign wealth fund was reportedly made to help the state meet the needs of the Health Ministry, purchase and produce medicine for domestic consumption and pay unemployment benefits.

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