The head of Iran’s Planning and Budget Organization Masoud Mirkazemi will be replaced, Iranian media reported, as the country faces a serious economic crisis.
Fars news website affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard reported about Mirkazemi’s impending dismissal, while the central bank chief was fired in late December.
Mirkazemi this week claimed that 93 percent of the budget was fulfilled in the previous Iranian year that ended on March 20, but this was done at the expense of the people who indirectly paid as the government kept printing money and increasing the inflation rate.
Iran’s currency rial has halved in value since early September and is now trading at 500,000 to the US dollar. This immediately translates into higher consumer prices, which have seen on high, double digit annual increases since 2018 when the United States withdrew from the JCPOA nuclear deal and imposed sanctions.
Fars did not mention a reason for Mirkazemi’s possible dismissal and only said that a tax office senior official, Davoud Manzoor is his possible replacement.
The head of Iran’s Planning and Budget Organization Masoud Mirkazemi
President Ebrahim Raisi’s government has been repeatedly claiming that it has lowered government borrowing from the central bank, but the effectual devaluation of the currency says otherwise.
Mirkazemi is also one of Raisi’s vice presidents and might also lose that position unless he is offered another post.
Iranian media reported in December that despite government claims, the money supply had grown by 1,000 trillion rials in seven months. Taking an average of the US dollar exchange rate in that period, the amount comes close to just $4 billion, but Iran has been printing money with an accelerated pace since the US imposed sanctions in 2018.
President Ebrahim Raisi (right) and the head of Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran Masoud Mirkazemi
With no short-term prospect for an agreement with Washington over the nuclear program and other issues, local investors are nervous to hold on to rials and the US dollar began to reach unprecedented highs in 2023.
If Mirkazemi is fired it would be a step long demanded by a chorus of politicians and pundits who have been asking for a major overhaul of the government for more than a year. Iran’s restricted media has been echoing calls not only by the president’s opponents but also by many conservatives and allies.
So far, lawmakers who have been demanding the impeachment of some ministers have been rebuffed by parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), who has tried to protect the administration, probably carrying out orders from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office.
The whole budget approval process in the parliament has remained obscure, as many among the elite believe that it is simply not realistic to expect sufficient revenues to come close to a balanced figure. Mirkazemi and others have put in the budget bill expected oil revenues of $43.3 billion, based on selling 1.4 million barrels per day for $85 per dollar – both unrealistic estimates. The annual budget cycle already started on March 21, while Iran is selling much less oil at steep discounts, probably bartering some of the exports.
Mirkazemi, an industrial engineer by training, is a conservative political operator who was minister of trade for four years and minister of oil for about two years under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Conservatives who assumed dozens of positions under Ahmadinejad are also ascendant in Raisi’s administration.