Facing a growing crisis, Iran’s Rouhani Government has begun the shake-up of its economic team.
On Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani replaced the head of the Central Bank, Vaidollah Seif, with Abdolnasser Hemmati. Rouhani said Hemmati — a former university lecturer in economics and deputy head of Iran State TV — will “revitalize the banking system” amid long-term structural problems exacerbated by US sanctions.
Hemmati had been tapped last week as Iran’s new ambassador to China.
Perhaps more significantly for Rouhani, his senior advisor Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht says he has offered to leave. The President has initially rejected the resignation of Nobakht, a key aide since Rouhani came to office in August 2013.
Rouhani’s chief of staff told reporters, “What the media quoted Nobakht as saying is not true.” Other reports said Rouhani had offered the advisor’s job to former Economy Minister Ali Tayyebnia, who turned it down.
With production, employment, and investment in trouble and with the currency losing 50% of its values to set a new historic low, hardliners have demanded the departure of Rouhani’s top economic advisors and even threatened the removal of the President.
About 90 MPs have called for the impeachment of Economy Minister Massoud Karbasian. Changes are also rumored to be imminent at the Industry and Housing ministries.
At a Thursday Cabinet meeting, Rouhani set out priorities for the new Central Bank head of “the improvement of banking relationships with the world as well as preserving foreign exchange reserves”, as well as reform of the banking system.