June 16, 2007 / 10:07 AM / 13 years ago

Iran president rejects economic policy criticism

TEHRAN, June 16 (Reuters) - Iran’s president made clear in comments published on Saturday the government would not change its economic policies in response to criticism in an open letter from dozens of Iranian economists.

A group of 57 economists this week said the government’s policies hurt growth, stoked inflation and failed to deliver on its goal of sharing out Iran’s oil wealth more justly.

“Some are against the ... government’s success and they want to make us tired and retreat, but be sure that they won’t succeed,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a provincial tour, according to the daily Donya-Ye Eqtesad.

The economists’ letter, published in newspapers on Tuesday, also said government foreign policy “had not been constructive”, drawing U.N. sanctions in a row with the West over Iran’s atomic plans.

It echoed a missive issued by economists at the same time last year and which also accused Ahmadinejad’s government of economic mismanagement.

Since then, inflation has surged to more than 17 percent, growth has continued to fall short of long-term planning targets and foreign firms have voiced increasing worries about investing in OPEC’s No. 2 producer.

The U.N. Security Council has slapped sanctions on Iran, including targeting a big state bank, for not reining in atomic work the West says is to build bombs. Tehran denies the charge.

Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 pledging to share out Iran’s oil riches more fairly but lawmakers, the press and ordinary Iranians have complained about rising prices and other economic problems.

The government defends its economic handling and says that problems like inflation have beset previous governments but that it is controlling price rises.

Newspapers said Ahmadinejad, speaking during a meeting in his home province of Semnan east of Tehran, challenged the critics of the government’s economic policies to prove their accusations.

“They accuse us of taking hasty decisions,” he was quoted as saying. “Let one of these ... economists come and prove his claims scientifically.”

One of the authors of the letter, who included academics and former officials such as an ex-head of the Tehran stock exchange, stood by the criticism.

“We are ready for any debate to prove that the government’s policies are not based on the framework of economic principles,” university lecturer Vahid Mahmoudi told the Etemad-e Melli daily.

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