By saying how many meetings his government had devoted to discussions on economic matters, Khatami attempted in his interview to pretend that economy had been on his mind during his seven months in office. Nevertheless, when faced with questions, he evaded any details and specific answers and offered nothing but generalities and prayers.
Khatami also tried to avoid accepting responsibility for the catastrophic state of the economy, saying his government had inherited the problems from previous governments. He added: "The most important problem is that the economic structure of the country is ailing... It faces shortages, deficiencies and ailments everywhere, in the production, the distribution, the rules and regulations concerning economic activities, sources of state revenue, etc."
Referring to the gulf that separates the income levels of the rich and the poor, Khatami said that in the urban areas, the rich social groups earn 15 times the income of the impoverished groups, while in rural areas this figure is 22 times higher. The mullahs' president added: "The highest income group is made up of those engaged in artificial economic activities," saying that this group is not taxed.
Khatami conceded that his only hope for dealing with such economic problems are more foreign borrowings and that his gestures of moderation in foreign policy are aimed at "preparing the grounds for taking advantage of international facilities."
Citing high inflation rate, fall of exports, plunge in the growth rate, rampant unemployment as signs of "an economy beset by problems," he admitted that Iranian society had lost its buying power to a considerable extent.
Khatami's remarks are but part of the catastrophic dimensions of the economy. 80% of the people live below the poverty line, 16 million are unemployed, 25 million are homeless, and the national per capita income had fallen to one-fifth of what it was in 1978, a year before the mullahs took power. In these circumstances, the lion's share of the country's assets are spent on repression, purchase of conventional weapons, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, and export of terrorism and fundamentalism, not to mention the rampant corruption that pervades the ruling mullahs' hierarchy.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
March 15, 1998