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Country Forecast Iran April 2018 Updater

Country Forecast Iran April 2018 Updater

  • April 2018
  • ID: 486635
  • Format: PDF
  • By The Economist Intelligence Unit

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  • The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the moderately reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, to continue with gradual economic liberalisation and social reform in his second presidential term. However, sporadic protests and resistance from hardliners will intensify the constraints faced by Mr Rouhani, limiting progress in his reform agenda. The issue of choosing a successor to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will also loom larger in 2018-22.
  • The more confrontational approach of the US administration will cause a sharp deterioration in bilateral ties with Iran, and, although we still expect the nuclear deal to remain in place, probably lead to a ramping-up of unilateral sanctions on Iran's missile programme. With the EU, China and others likely to remain committed to the nuclear deal, and the government keen to maximise inflows of inward investment, Iran is expected to adhere to the agreement's conditions.
  • Mr Rouhani will attempt to ease foreign investment laws, implement revised contracts for international oil firms and seek to draw the bonyads (charities with extensive business interests) and firms connected to the Revolutionary Guards into the tax system. However, progress will be halting, in the face of resistance by vested interests close to the supreme leader.
  • The public finances will be supported by the easing of sanctions and a recovery in oil export volumes. However, with the government keen to pacify protests, welfare spending could increase, and in order to ensure a post-sanctions windfall, spending on infrastructure will also be ramped up (although in the longer term), leading to a widening of the fiscal deficit in 2018/19-2022/23 (March 21st-March 20th).
  • We expect real GDP growth to average 4.5% a year in 2018/19-2022/23, helped by infrastructure investment from China, in particular. The current-account position will be supported by rising oil exports, but the surplus will narrow steadily as imports surge and non-merchandise outflows (especially profit repatriation) increase.
  • Inflation will rise to an average of 10.7% in 2018 as the weakening currency pushes up the cost of imports. Nevertheless, as the rate of the rial's depreciation gradually slows following unification of the dual exchange rates in early 2019, and rising foreign investment, inflation will ease to an average of 10% in 2020-22.


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