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EghtesadOnline: The Central Bank of Iran's governor mounted a strong defense of the four-year performance of his bank as an extension of the economic policies of President Hassan Rouhani who seeks reelection on May 19.

"The [current] government began its work at a time when the foreign exchange market was extremely volatile and various sectors of the economy did not have any stability," Valiollah Seif also said during a press conference on Tuesday, IBENA reported.

He welcomed the press gathering, which was also attended by CBI deputy for supervisory affairs, Farshad Heydari, and deputy for economic affairs, Peyman Qorbani, as an opportunity to underscore the fact that the economy had become much more predictable to the benefit of investors.

Seif referred to the fiscal March 2012-13 when the administration took office, after the Iranian rial had lost around 70% of its value, prompting the central bank to focus on the currency market, according to Financial Tribune.

The market remained relatively stable until the final months of 2016, which saw the rial weaken to 41,500 per US dollar. It has since strengthened to 37,500 and officials have repeatedly assured that no sudden hikes are to be expected. Seif also referred to CBI’s attention toward financial discipline, the lack of which had plagued the eight-year presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, contracting the economy by 6.8% at the height of international sanctions in 2012.

“GDP growth reached 11.6% during the first nine months of the previous fiscal year that ended on March 20,” he added.

The fact that a strong rise in oil exports, following the implementation of the nuclear accord and easing of sanctions, is responsible for a significant portion of the growth has garnered criticism over the country’s oil dependency.

“This is natural in economic growth,” he said, pointing out that non-oil growth was also positive during the first three quarters of last year.

The role of banking system in energizing the stagnating Iranian businesses was also in the spotlight, with Seif pointing out that 25,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises received 175 trillion rials ($4.6 billion) worth of loans “which not only safeguarded jobs, but also generated employment in some cases”.

As he had announced earlier, the top banking official reiterated that the banking system allocated 5.48 quadrillion rials ($146.1 billion) during the previous fiscal year, which registers a 32% growth. Of this amount, 64% were designated as working capital.

Election Controversy

Seif also made a passing reference to the influence of upcoming presidential elections and the subsequent claims made by candidates regarding lack of capital.

The government and CBI have made good strides toward increasing capital and boosting transparency, and “we will conform to international standards”, he said.

The capital adequacy ratio of banks under Basel II standards, recommended by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, is set at 12% while it is much lower in the Iranian banking system.

As to the properties, excess assets and speculative activities of banks, Seif conceded that many things need to be done, noting that the problem arose years ago.

Iranian banks have been advised time and time again to shed their excess assets and a number of auctions have been held in this regard.

The CBI governor pointed to the bank’s grand plan to overhaul its financial oversight regime, promising that it will “become operational by the end of the current month” on May 21.

Seif had initially announced that the New Operational Model of Supervision over Banks is to be completed by December20, 2016, employing the latest international know-how while completely localizing its components.

It aims to rate the banks based on their risk levels and exert better supervision over them. The dual foreign exchange rate of the Iranian market, long promised to be ditched in favor of a unified system, is reportedly not materializing as a result of “a  series of political motives”.

The CBI chief also stressed the fact that Iran opted months ago not to use the US dollar as its official currency for financial reporting as “one of the huge achievements of the government”, saying there was no reason to stick to the greenback in light of restrictions imposed by longstanding US sanctions.

Seif also referred to the recent claim made by presidential candidate, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and said companies affiliated with Tehran Municipality are the largest debtor to the banking sector.

“Tehran Municipality owes 60 trillion rials ($1.6 billion) to the banking system. The municipality could not finish construction projects without the support of banks,” ILNA quoted Seif as saying.

During the second presidential debate, Qalibaf had accused the banking system of being corrupt.

Hassan Rouhani Iran economy CBI Central Bank of Iran Iran presidential election Rouhani economic record