Iran health minister quits over budget cuts as US sanctions bite

Iranian health minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi had repeatedly complained about delays in payments of budgeted funds. (Courtesy: Tehran Times)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Iran health minister quits over budget cuts as US sanctions bite

  • Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi was widely seen as the key official behind the 2014 launch of an ambitious plan for universal medical insurance
  • Hashemi had repeatedly complained about delays in payments of budgeted funds in the past and about cuts in his ministry’s budget

DUBAI: Iran’s health minister has resigned over proposed budget cuts, the official news agency IRNA reported, amid an economic crisis wrought by the reimposition of US sanctions on Tehran.
IRNA said on Thursday President Hassan Rouhani accepted the resignation of Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, widely seen as the key official behind the 2014 launch of an ambitious plan for universal medical insurance sometimes dubbed “Rouhanicare.”
Hashemi had repeatedly complained about delays in payments of budgeted funds in the past and about cuts in his ministry’s budget under the new state spending plans, IRNA said.
US President Donald Trump reintroduced sanctions on Iran last year, targeting in particular the country’s lifeblood oil sector, after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal. The move has helped depress the value of Iran’s rial currency and aggravated annual inflation fourfold to nearly 40 percent in November.
Last month, Rouhani presented a $47 billion draft state budget with increased spending on lower income groups, saying the US sanctions would affect people’s lives and economic growth but not bring the government to its knees.
Despite the rise in the rial value of the budget, however, it is effectively worth about half of the current budget because of the recent weakening of the currency and galloping inflation.
In recent months, various Iranian cities have been rocked by demonstrations as factory workers, teachers, truck drivers and farmers protested against economic hardship and corruption.


Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

Updated 25 June 2019
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Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

  • Fighting new economic plan ‘a strategic mistake,’ White House adviser says
  • Says plan would double Palestinian GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs

MANAMA, Bahrain: Donald Trump wants a fair deal for Palestinians, the US president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on the eve of the launch in Bahrain of the White House’s $50 billion “peace for prosperity” plan.

The Palestinians are missing an opportunity to participate in the Middle East peace process by boycotting the Bahrain conference, Kushner said. “This is a strong package that has been put together. Fighting it instead of embracing it, I think, is a strategic mistake.”

The plan proposes a global investment fund for Palestine and neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transport corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian leaders have rejected it, but Kushner said their criticism was “more emotional than specific.”

“Nobody has refuted our core premise that this would do a lot to stimulate the economy,” he said. “The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.”

The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.

Jared Kushner, US president’s adviser

Kushner said Trump decisions such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv were evidence that the president kept his promises.

“The Palestinians might not have liked his Jerusalem decision, but he made a promise and he did it,” he said. What the president wanted now was “to give the Palestinian people a fair solution.”

Kushner said the plan would double the GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs, reduce poverty by 50 percent and bring unemployment to below 10 percent.

“We believe this doable,” he said. “It’s hard, but if there’s a peace agreement and we set up the right structure, we think it could really lead to improving people’s lives in a substantial way.

“I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in the West Bank and Gaza to see if we can find a political solution so that this can be implemented.”

The political element of the White House plan has been delayed by uncertainty in Israel, where there will be elections this year after an earlier vote failed to produce a stable coalition, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may also face a criminal trial for corruption.