Source: Thomas Erdbrink in The New York Times, May 15
…With a presidential election coming Friday, many middle-class Iranians are disillusioned and cynical after years of high unemployment, inflation that eats relentlessly into living standards, and widespread corruption.
And they are frustrated with a state widely regarded as ossified and out of touch, a mixture of a quasi-socialist economy dominated by the military and clergy, and elective institutions supervised by conservative clerical bodies that have the final say on legislation and candidates for political office.
Veterans of the 1979 revolution, like Ayatollah Khamenei, are still in charge, reinforcing a rigid revolutionary ideology and doing their best to resist pressures for change. With no obvious younger generation of leaders, the country also faces a looming succession crisis.
While foreign investors often are said to be intent on doing deals, it is unclear whether they will help start an economic boom. With few exceptions, they are signing memorandums of understanding, not actual contracts.
Many are concerned that the Trump administration could penalize big international banks that choose to do business in Iran, if they are deemed to violate nonnuclear American sanctions still in force against the country.
Only big banks can provide the large-scale financing needed for the major, job-creating infrastructure projects that Iran desperately needs.
President Hassan Rouhani – who is running for re-election against, among others, Ebrahim Raisi, a favorite of hard-liners – had hoped to have made headway on these problems by now. He ran in 2013 promising to reinvigorate the economy by forging the nuclear deal, ending or easing sanctions that cut Iran off from international finance and opening the country to foreign investment and ideas.
He accomplished the nuclear pact, but the economic benefits have been meager at best. Instead, Iranians, many of them college graduates, are working longer and harder just to make ends meet….