Iran President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that he will oversee the
country’s Oil Ministry following the dismissal of its minister, Masoud Mir-
Kazemi, as part of a plan to shrink government administration.
“I am the caretaker for the Oil Ministry,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview
on Iran state television recently.
The move, part of a plan to improve government efficiency and reduce the
number of ministries to 17 from 21 by 2015, was in line with an earlier May
9 announcement that the Oil Ministry would merge with the Energy Ministry.
Oil is Iran’s biggest source of foreign revenue, with the price of Iran
Light crude gaining 22 percent so far this year to $108.45 a barrel. The
ministry oversaw efforts to boost refinery processing to avoid shortages of
gasoline following U.S. pressure to curb international sales of the motor
fuel to Iran.
The President had dismissed Mir-Kazemi as well as Industry and Mines
Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Welfare Minister Sadegh Mahsouli, saying
their responsibilities had ended. Among other ministries, Industries and
Mines are to be combined with Commerce, while Welfare will merge with Labor.
This move drew criticism from parliamentary members who said the decision
had been hasty and that the president had failed to consult them on details
of the mergers. The president should have sought parliamentary approval for
the structural changes as well as dismissals and appointments, Ahmad
Tavakoli, head of the parliament’s research center, said May 14.
Ahmadinejad rejected the criticisms, saying that his decision would ensure a
swift implementation of the law and was to the country’s benefit.
“It is in the interest of the country to have a smaller government,” he
said, adding that removing ministers “will not lead to complications in the
management of the ministries.”
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has appointed Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari to
oversee the Industry and Mines Ministry and Labor Minister Abdolreza
Sheikholeslami to take over the Welfare Ministry. He didn’t name a caretaker
for the Oil Ministry.
Iran, the second-largest crude producer in the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, currently holds the group’s
presidency, which changes each year. The group holds its next ministerial
conference on June 8 in Vienna. Traditionally, the formal meeting begins
with a speech by the OPEC President. OPEC officials in Vienna could not
immediately say who would head Iran’s delegation. Oil revenue accounts for
about three-fourths of Iran’s budget.
Gholamhossein Hassantash, a former president at the Tehran- based Institute
for International Energy Studies, warned against such “blows” delivered to
the oil industry and economy, especially given the pressure of international
sanctions amid the government’s insistence on pursuing nuclear activities.