DUBAI Feb 24 Iran is to reduce its dependence
on oil income and boost non-oil exports in its budget to counter
the "heavy" impact of sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
said in a television interview late on Saturday.
The budget is due to be presented to parliament on Wednesday
for debate and likely amendments before it is subject to a
parliamentary vote in the run up to Iran's election in June that
will take place against the backdrop of deep economic gloom.
"Events have struck from beyond our own economy and heavy
factors are active from outside. If severe fluctuations hit this
(oil) income, surely it has an effect," Fars news reported
Ahmadinejad as saying, in an apparent reference to sanctions
that have nearly halved Iran's oil exports.
"We have to go in a direction to reduce oil receipts in our
economy and raise other incomes such as non-oil exports that are
increasing rapidly," he said.
Over the past year Iran's economy has borne the brunt of
tough sanctions against its oil and banking sectors imposed by
the United States and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear
The West suspects Iran is trying to develop a nuclear
weapons capability. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
The International Energy Agency estimated last week that
Iran's oil exports may have dropped below 1 million barrels per
day in January from 2.2 million bpd in late 2011, costing the
country over $40 billion in reduced revenues last year.
The financial pressures have resulted in soaring inflation
and employment, dented production and brought investment to a
Iran's government has sought to impose cuts to its spending
by drastically reducing access by businesses and individuals to
its generous foreign exchange sales rates and banned the import
of luxury items to stem the flow of hard currency abroad.
Access to hard currency has also been curtailed since major
crude oil customer India is no longer been able to pay for
nearly half of its shipments in euros because of the sanctions.
But Ahmadinejad said non-oil exports coupled with its
technical and engineering services could reach 75 billion
dollars in the coming year, a 50 percent rise compared to
estimated figures for this year that ends on March 19.
Iranian officials say such exports comprise gas condensate,
chemical products, cement, vehicles, agricultural produce as
well as nuts and fruit.
As with previous budgets, the process is unlikely to be
concluded before the start of the next Persian year, less than a
month away, and may drag on for several more months.
It is also likely to be hampered by the deep political
divisions between the president and a mainly hostile parliament
who accuse him of reckless financial management that they see as
the major cause of Iran's economic pain.