Following are excerpts from an interview with Sadeq Zibakalam, a political science professor at Tehran University, which aired on Press TV on September 8, 2008:
Sadeq Zibakalam: What would happen if oil prices went down below 70 or 60 dollars per barrel? In what state would Iran be in that situation? So I think the higher oil revenues in a way have artificially kept Iran's economy going, but aside from that, I really don't think our economy can be described as very healthy.
Interviewer: From the consumer's perspective, how bad is the situation?
Sadeq Zibakalam: Every now and then, there are, all of a sudden, price increases in lots of consumer products – chicken, eggs, etc. – and the government keeps saying to the people: Do not panic, and it's some conspiracy by some merchants who are related to foreign powers... But that's not good enough for people.
The government of Iran likes to respond to the effects of the sanctions by saying it hasn't had any effect on us, we are thriving, we are going forward, and the amount of foreign investment has been doubled and tripled during the past year or so. But when you talk to others – the other Iranians who are involved in the private sector, the government, or the public sector – on trade, agriculture, industry, all sorts of aspects of commerce, they say that it has had an effect on our economy. We've found it difficult to open credit, we've found it difficult to use the banking system, we cannot deal directly with our partners in South Korea, in Japan, never mind Europe and the United States. We have to do this through a middle-man – someone in Dubai, someone in Istanbul, someone even as far as Malaysia – to bend the sanctions. Obviously, these are bound to have an effect on Iran's economy.
I think basically, Ahmadinejad's government lacks direction, lacks strategy, lacks planning, lacks cohesion, and he does things, literally, on a daily basis.
Interviewer: Could you, Dr. Zibakalam, for the sake of our viewers, of course, kindly amplify in detail those core issues that the government is kind of short on?
Sadeq Zibakalam: Well, for example... About four or five years ago, I think, there was this 20-year strategic planning, and Ahmadinejad is way behind 20-year planning. When he was questioned, in an interview on Iranian national television, he simply said that the problem in that the country lacks infrastructure. In other words, what he's saying is that all those experts, all those ministers who gathered at the Expediency Council, did not realize that what they had planned for the next 20 years, the country lacks sufficient or the necessary infrastructure to carry out that plan, and it's only Ahmadinejad who understands that.
Many Iranians feel that their standard of living is going down. Now, to say that Ahmadinejad has been harshly criticized doesn't help the breadwinners, who have to feed their children and family.
There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics, as the saying goes.