TEHRAN, March 20: Iran's supreme leader said Sunday that the economy must come first, insisting in a Persian new year's day message that domestic production is the best route to a strong recovery.
The Nowruz holiday comes just two months after implementation began of a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers led by the United States, triggering the lifting of a raft of international sanctions and raising the prospect of renewed foreign investment.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said repeatedly that foreign investment will only help if it is used to develop Iran's domestic industries. "Hopes exist for the year 1395... but to achieve these hopes we must make efforts day and night without interruption," Khamenei said in a pre-recorded television address.
"The economy must be our priority," he said, dubbing 1395 "the year of the resistance economy and action".
The ending of the 13-year standoff over Iran's nuclear programme has raised expectations of recovery after years of economic difficulties, including high inflation which dramatically reduced Iranians' purchasing power. The economy exited a deep recession little more than a year ago.
But although international oil sales have resumed and exports risen since the nuclear deal went into effect in January, the price of crude means receipts have been low, and growth remains weak.
"The solution is the economy of resistance," Khamenei said.
"With the economy of resistance, we can fight unemployment and recession, control inflation and confront the threats of enemies."
He said the government of President Hassan Rouhani had put in place "extensive measures" to repair the economy.
"Steps have been taken and these preliminary actions must continue," the supreme leader said, in a possible nod to Rouhani's taming of inflation, which has fallen to 13 per cent from more than 40 per cent when the president took office in August 2013.
"I do not expect that these problems will be solved in a year, but I'm sure that if appropriate actions are taken, we will see the effects at the end of the year." Unemployment in Iran stands at a little over 10 per cent but youth unemployment is around 25 per cent, making job creation vital.
In a separate message, broadcast immediately after Khamenei's, Rouhani echoed the supreme leader, and said economic growth of five per cent was his aim for the next 12 months. "I have hope, and am certain that with interaction with the world, we can move towards economic prosperity," he said. ?AFP