International News

Iran parliament approves new health minister

Tehran : Iran’s parliament Monday gave an overwhelming vote of confidence to President Hassan Rouhani’s pick as health minister, after his predecessor resigned over budget cuts and criticism of the allocation of state funds.



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Saeed Namaki was voted into office with 229 votes out of a total 259. He had been appointed as caretaker by Rouhani after the former minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi resigned on December 3.


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Hashemi’s resignation letter points at “inconsistencies and not delivering on promises” by the government’s planning and budget organisation, semi-official news agency ISNA reported.



Namaki had previously served as deputy to Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht, the head of planning and budget organisation. The Rouhani administration and Hashemi had repeatedly been criticised for their allegedly costly plan to reform Iran’s healthcare system.

But in his last speech as minister, Hashemi said the reform project had cost a fraction of what was spent on bailing out failed credit institutions.

“The total money spent… is 164 trillion rials. (Yet they) spent 350 trillion rials on corrupt credit institutions,” he said, in a video of the speech posted on Iran’s video-sharing service Aparat.

Several unauthorised credit institutions, which mushroomed during ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s era, collapsed in Rouhani’s six years in office, with the central bank rushing to reimburse lost deposits.

The healthcare reform plan aimed to reduce medical costs for patients and ease Iranians’ access to medical services.

Speaking in parliament, the new minister vowed to carry on with the reforms and said that “no previous commitments will be ignored”.

Iran is struggling with a sharp economic downturn as its currency has sharply depreciated against the dollar. The recession has been fuelled partly by the US withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal last May and the reimposition of unilateral sanctions.



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