the Heavy Shadow of Restrictions
The government should set up the negotiation tables of the business
environment as soon as possible, hear the voice of the stakeholders,
and think about their pain.
Exporters and importers are facing a difficult situation nowadays. The heavy
shadow of politics is all over the economic decisions and, consequently, the
heavier shadow of some economic decisions is gradually bending the back of
foreign trade. The government has considered export and import restrictions
and prohibitions that challenge exporters and importers. Mehdi Ghazanfari,
the inventor of the ‘commodity classification’ during the sanctions and the
founder of the ‘foreign exchange center’, speaks about the current situation
of the foreign exchange market and the new restrictions on foreign trade.
The former minister of industry, mine and trade says that trade bans have
not been appropriate neither when he was minister nor under current
The government is adding more restrictions on foreign trade every day.
Imports of 1,400 items have also been banned. Basically, what is the logic
behind these wide limits?
Imposing restrictions in the long run is by no means a good thing. I also
did not believe that we could manage production and trade with the
continuation of such restrictions; rather, we designed them in order to exit
the crisis, which worked well in its place. But as for the incumbent
government, it seems that, firstly, the government has not taken the issue
of the currency crisis seriously and is very slow and incoherent; secondly,
the work of government agencies in the current situation is not precise and
thoughtful. Apparently, they have only decided to do some part of the work
related to the previous boycott. Most importantly, no organization in the
current situation is the owner of the whole process, something we did in the
Of course, at that time too, criticisms were made against the Ministry of
Industry, Mine and Trade about the import ban. Isn’t the 12th
government’s applying the same policies?
I agree with economic activists that this is not a good idea either in
exports or in imports. The best way is management which is beyond
restrictions and is more of rule-making; that is to design slopes so that
when the private sector activist steps on it he could start moving. We must,
in all conditions, support rational economic freedom. The economic activist
is absolutely right to believe that there should be no restrictions and
prohibitions. We too, despite our will, had to impose import and export
prohibitions. Imposing restrictions cannot be defended under normal
circumstances whether by us or by others. In the meantime, we should not
forget that the government is responsible for all the society, and must take
decisions that would not jeopardize the future of the country and the
people. A safe passage by the people through these challenges is the primary
responsibility of governments.
Can foreign exchange restrictions help the Iranian economy improve or could
I believe that incomplete implementation of a plan can undermine it. At that
time, we launched a “complete package of economic decisions,” which I just
mentioned the part dealing with Industry, Mine and Trade Ministry. But today
things have changed and no one maintains that perspective. It seems that
some in the government want to stand aside and wait for the problems to be
solved automatically; but this is not possible; all the tools in this
toolbox should be used.
We at the ministry dealt with issues such as importer, manufacturer, import
registration, currency allocation, customs tariffs, clearance, pricing,
distribution and sales, exporter, currency transfer and exporter’s currency
pricing, creation of a center for currency exchange between exporter and
importer, prioritization, capital in circulation, inspection and supervision
over the market, supply of goods, all-out cooperation with the Ministry of
Oil and the Central Bank, interaction with the media, and information
dissemination to the other powers, and we did this with all power. That is,
for all the players on the scene, we had a special program to use everyone’s
potential and minimize uncertainties. However, if the government wants to
solve the problems, it must know that it is still at the beginning of a
difficult road. It should not lose hope or become passive. It should not let
people think what the opponents claim come true, that is “old and exhausted
generals would surrender before the people do.”
The government may think that the ban on imports is aimed at supporting
domestic production; can import restrictions boost domestic production?
Perhaps we all favor lack of import of foreign goods, but we know well that
if this happens constantly, it would create monopoly; for example, a
domestic producer may create monopoly in the market, that is to raise the
prices but pay no attention to quality. In the conditions of monopoly,
whether we want or not, our first and last option is the goods that we
The time is up for attributing all the problems to the previous
governments and voicing ridiculous optimism which the speaker
himself does not believe in.
In fact, monopoly would reduce competition, create disregard for the seller,
etc. which would create industrial backwardness; so any decision may have
some mal effects per se. In the economy too, the decisions of the
authorities would cause displacement of the wealth, opportunities and future
of the country and affect the next generation.
Economic decisions, of course, have short and long term positive and
negative impacts. This is a precise question and its bad effects can be
quite horrible. However, we are at the beginning of a huge challenge.
Apparently Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his colleagues are
trying to keep Europe in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or may hold
some negotiations with the United States, I do not know. But there are
different scenarios before Iran’s economy. The first scenario is to keep
Europe committed to JCPOA and not let the deal collapse. Here we need a
strategy and planning in the field of economy and foreign currency, but we
observe no plans in this respect.
The second scenario is that Iran and Europe come out of JCPOA and there will
be new sanctions from the US alongside quarterly, biannually and secondary
sanctions. In that case, special conditions will prevail over the country,
which are manageable, but with the government procrastinations in making
decisions and taking actions, people would be harmed. Again, we do not see
any plan by the government for this scenario.
The government should pay more attention to the elites, change its
procedures and hear the words of the elites. The conditions we are embracing
are very difficult. Now it is not the time to settle accounts by political
factions; instead these groups must all get united and be coherent. Now a
big enemy has been shaped that wants to interfere in all affairs of the
Iranian nation, and the government is clearly unable to manage this
Some exporters say they have stopped exports because of government
restrictions on foreign trade. What could be the consequences of this policy
for the future of Iranian economy?
The government should set up the negotiation tables of the business
environment as soon as possible, hear the voice of the stakeholders, and
think about their pain. Naturally, if the government turns a deaf ear to
these voices, it would gradually diverge and double the problems
complications of the country. As far as I know, the people, economic
activists, and the media are tired of the government indifference, and they
may be resort to national incitement. The time is up for attributing all the
problems to the previous governments and voicing ridiculous optimism which
the speaker himself does not believe in. The people are losing patience and
they need to be heard. The social atmosphere has undergone a major
transformation. The Cyberspace, right or wrong, provides a huge amount of
information to its clients. Let’s not forget that people do not want
anything other than dignified life; so if some officials are unable to make
people reach this humanitarian cause, the way is open for them to quit.