Former Iranian Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi (IRNA)

Iran’s Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi has resigned over proposed budget cuts, amid economic problems and US sanctions.

President Rouhani accepted the resignation on Thursday of Hashemi, who was central in the 2014 launch of an ambitious plan for universal medical insurance.

Iranian State media said Hashemi repeatedly complained about delays in payments of funds, and was upset by cuts in the Health Ministry in the 2019-2020 budget, presented by Rouhani to Parliament on December 25.

The Minister said in his last presentation to staff:

With my staying, nothing will change other than the damages will increase. The issue is no longer normal but has become personal. Hopefully, this change will cause someone to come and…do what was promised.

I’m a hard worker and I have a high tolerance….These aren’t new issues, and I have not made these issues public until now. I’ve written numerous letters to the president; many things have happened and I have not told anybody.

Officials from the Management and Planning Organization — headed by Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, a senior economic advisor to Rouhani — have maintained that the Ministry’s budget has tripled in the last six years.

The draft budget allocates 4,700 trillion rials — $42.7 billion at the open-market rate of about 110,000:1 v. the US dollar; about $85.4 billion at the Government’s assumed rate of 55,000:1. Because of a 60% devaluation of the rial since last January and inflation which has resurged to more than 35%, spending is effectively half of that in 2018-2019, despite claimed increases in subsidies on basic goods and in incomes for State employees.

Iran Daily, Dec 26: Rouhani Submits Budget But Focuses on US Sanctions

The Government has been battling long-standing issues of corruption, mismanagement, and bureaucracy which have troubled production, investment, trade, and employment.

The effort has been complicated by comprehensive American sanctions, imposed on November 5 after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the 5+1 Powers.

Iran’s oil exports have halved since last April, and non-oil exports were down 57% in December.

Iran Daily, Jan 1: Non-Oil Exports Down 57%

Hashemi said in his final presentation that he would not remain to send people away who needed medical help or to purchase low-quality equipment and medicine which would “bring into the system a group of rent-seekers”.

“I’m not this kind of person. It was a mistake to work with these types of people,” he added.