Iranian presidential candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref outlines his plans to Press TV in an interview whose approximate transcription is as follows:
Press TV: I would like to ask the first question about your political stance as a Reformist.
Do you consider yourself a Reformist candidate and how do you define Reformists?
Aref: In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
I’m very glad that I have been given the opportunity to speak to my fellow countrymen especially those outside the country.
I consider myself as a Reformist and being a Reformist includes, in a very specific definition, that we believe in moving in the framework of the system and observing all the norms inside the framework of the system and we believe that we should take steps in order to create reforms and solve the problems in the country and this is what being a Reformist means and especially in method and procedure we believe that we cannot break the frameworks of the system in order to reach the objectives of Reformists and our movement is in the framework of the system and if you ask that I am the representative of the Reformist Movement, principally this has to be announced by the veterans in this movement.
Fortunately, we are moving forward in our agreements. When Mr. [Akbar] Hashemi [Rafsanjani] announced his candidacy and I did not want to compete with him when he took part but unfortunately he is not available in the campaign and then therefore I consider myself as a Reformist candidate.
Press TV: How would you define Iranâ„¢s political spectrum and where do Reformists stand in this political spectrum?
What role do they play?
Aref: Perhaps the Reformists were the main current and movement in the [Islamic] Revolutionâ„¢s victory.
They had a share in the victory [and] in all the affairs after the victory of the  Islamic Revolution and sometimes they were referred to as Leftists, sometimes those who followed the path of [late revolutionary leader] Imam [Khomeini] and today they are referred to as the Reformists.
We believe that it is a matter of responsibility and the right for the Reformists to take part in the countryâ„¢s political affairs and that is how I look at the issue and right now I am present in the scene of elections.
Press TV: In what way has the job of becoming a president made you interested in running in this election?
Aref: The responsibilities of the president is not something that has to be put forward by the candidate. Our duty is to move in the framework of the Constitution and a candidate must move in that framework of the Constitution but, personally, in the Constitution, I believe, that there is a good atmosphere for the president as the second highest-ranking person in the system in order to respond to the needs of the people and to put into action the plans put forward by that candidate.
Press TV: Considering the new political lineup, how would you define the new political spectrum ahead of the June 14th elections and do you believe that we might be seeing some coalitions formed, particularly on the Principlists side?
Aref: The political scene does not have that much energy and enthusiasm in it but I am hopeful that gradually in the upcoming days with the programs shown on national TV we would witness a maximum passionate enthusiasm but if some of the candidates would have taken part in the elections, there would have been a better and more energetic atmosphere.
Of course the decision is up to the Guardian Council, which has chosen eight candidates from different political factions, which we are hopeful that with the presence of different political parties we would witness a good presence in the scene, but of course about the coalition of the Principlists, we believe that our wish is that in a system, which is based on values we would go towards a coalition and there should be a possibility for a coalition to reach a joint agreement with more power and strength and more capable people in order to serve the country much better.
Press TV: And what about questions being raised about the elections in Iran and whether they are free and fair?
Aref: It is democratic and according to our Constitution the main role is on the shoulders of the people and our people with their high understanding of always being supportive of the [Islamic] Revolution in all scenes especially in the political scene, in a country, which at least has held one election each year; of course there have been analyses and criticisms from the perspective of the West but what is important to our people is that generally speaking the elections have been well in this country but there have been violations and shortcomings, which have been supervised and confronted by the responsible bodies.
But what is important is that according to what our Leader said that all the persons in charge of the election procedure must do their responsibility well in order not to give a pretext to the West.
Press TV: Why do you think that the Iranian elections have always been interesting for Western countries? In what way can they can they benefit from it?
Aref: We do believe that we are the most independent country in the world and we do not seek dependence on any foreign power.
Of course we are pro interaction and negotiations. The main backup of our revolution and the system are the people and of course those against us and our enemies have been trying to create a rift between the people and the system and on this path they have made analyses but, as I said, our people have a high understanding and most of them do not follow the path of the West and are constantly supportive of the [Islamic] Revolution.
Press TV: Now that we are discussing the way the West has been treating Iran, let’s move on to the issue of sanctions.
How do you think that the sanctions will affect the elections?
Aref: I don’t think that it has a significant impact on the elections.
The people do not confuse the performance of the governments with the system and they are not influenced in playing their role in the system by the performance and the function of the governments and that is why I believe that the sanctions do not have an impact on the presence of the people and more significantly I think that they do have a positive impact so that the people would have a stronger presence in the elections in order to support the government to overcome these sanctions.
Press TV: What is your opinion about holding direct negotiations with the United States?
Are you okay with holding such talks and under what circumstances?
Aref: We have shown, in the past three decades after the victory of the Revolution, that we are after negotiations and interaction in the framework of the main policies of the system in order to maintain our national interest and safeguarding the rights of our people we do negotiate with all nations but our redlines in our negotiations are the main policies of our system, which had been outlined recently by our leader that with any country, even the United States, if we could defend the undeniable rights of our people, we could negotiate with any country.
Press TV: While we are still on the issue of Iranâ„¢s foreign policy, let us also discuss the nuclear issue.
What is your opinion about that? Do you believe that what has been done so far has been the right path?
From the technical perspective, the West and we know clearly that we did not have any problems and our goal has always been based on the peaceful application of the nuclear technology and to support that and to ensure them that we do have a fatwa (religious decree), an Islamic fatwa, whose status is already known in Islam.
But unfortunately the case has been politicized and requires a political solution. I believe that with a stronger diplomacy and more constructive interaction with other countries especially Europe, we could close this political case as soon as possible.
Press TV: Why do you think that the negotiations with the P5+1 have so far had no results?
Aref: It is a political issue. Especially behind the negotiations is the United States and what is obvious and clear is that if one day Iran and the United States could maintain political relations, the case would naturally be solved.
But we are hopeful that with the interactions with the Islamic states, with our friendly states and the Non-Aligned Movement states and also with interactions and good relations with Europe we could, without depending on the United States, solve this issue and close this case.
Press TV: I understand that you have studied in the US. Do you believe that the period that you have stayed there and that you studied there will help you in dealing with Western countries?
Has it helped you understand their culture better?
Aref: About five years I was in the United States, from 1975 to 1980. I completed my masters and my Ph.D. in Stanford University but right after my graduation I came back to Iran in order to use my good knowledge in one of the best universities in the world.
My presence in the United States naturally helps me to have a better understanding of the American culture and other countries especially with the understanding that I have from the West and from the trust that the Westerners have from a West-educated person, I can work in strengthening the relations and constructive cooperation with other countries.
Press TV: Do you have ant plans in order to solve the problem of brain drain in Iran and do you have any plans to bring back the Iranians that have been educated abroad?
Aref: Wherever Iranians in the world are, they are considered as our spiritual assets and they are dear to us.
One of the priorities that we have in our plans…, we have seven priorities in our plans, one of them is using this spiritual asset in different ways.
Firstly in the economy, the ones who are living abroad are usually wealthy. We are pursuing an eight percent growth.
We have prioritized the attraction of investments of Iranians living abroad and also for the transferring of the technology and transferring our science into technology we need to use their expertise.
One of our plans is to strengthen the interaction of Iranians living abroad. We are not saying that they should necessarily come and live inside the country.
Wherever in the world they are they are considered as our national assets and through different mechanisms, that will be planned, we will be using their presence even as part-time or even once a year in the country so that we could pursue a better transfer of technology and at the same time we should prepare the grounds for absorbing the Iranian scientists, living abroad, to Iran and for that they require a good atmosphere for work and they don’t necessarily follow financial issues very much.
I have had good experiences and I have implemented good plans during my experience in the first decade of the [Islamic] Revolution in the Science Ministry, so that we could make the best use of this high capability that we have outside of the country and we are planning to make the best use of their expertise and wealth.
Press TV: Now that you have mentioned your plans if you become president, can you tell us more about what these plans are and what your slogan is, in your presidential campaign?
Aref: Our election motto is, primarily, developing peopleâ„¢s lives, controlling inflation so that during our term we could help inflation to reach a one-digit rate.
The other issue that we are facing is unemployment, which has a high rate.
We have special plans to create jobs in the country and we are hopeful to help diminish the unemployment rate to below ten percent, especially housing for our youth, absorbing investment in foreign capital in order to be able to respond to our countryâ„¢s needs.
We need to absorb the investment of Iranians living abroad and also foreign investment in order to reach an eight-percent growth rate.
In creating jobs we have specific plans one of them is regarding the tourism industry, in which we are planning to invest.
We are a cultural country and the cultural tourists are very interested in coming here and by creating the [necessary] infrastructure we are hopeful to host more than twenty million tourists a year to create more than 200,000 jobs.
Priority is also ICT. The share of ICT in our country from the GDP is 1.5 percent, which we are planning to make that above seven percent. We will be creating a lot of jobs in that sector.
Iran has a especial geographical situation. Our look is to make the best use of this geographical situation to turn Iran into a regional hub in all sectors so that this could have a good income and good employment for the country.
Of course we have a written plan, which has been compiled in 100 pages based on rationality and logic and running the country requires rationality and all the plans have to be focused on lifting the status of our people in the country so that gradually we will be announcing those plans.
These seven plans that I referred to…, one of them and the most important is diminishing the inflation and controlling high prices. We have very crystal-clear plans for that.
We are going to create sustainable jobs and help fight unemployment, also housing for everyone, for all of the people of Iran, a house that the average Iranian family deserves.
The Mehr Housing scheme is currently being implemented and its performance has been acceptable but we have serious criticism to that scheme but we are looking forward to what is called a sustainable housing system for the people.
Increasing the national per capita income, in order to do that we have good plans so that we could increase the national per capita income in the country.
We also have to increase productivity especially at a time that we are following an eight percent growth rate in our plans.
Justice and decreasing inequality has always been one of the mottos of the [Islamic] Revolution but justice without wealth is only distributing wealth.
We should put justice as our main motto and move towards distributing wealth instead of poverty. The issue of having a healthy society is also a priority, mental and physical health is also important.
Currently our people are paying at least 70 percent of their health costs. We are planning to decrease that number to 30 percent, therefore the share of health to the gross domestic product has to become at least seven percent.
The issue of patriotism and accepting Iran, we have plans to move in the framework of the system based on national dignity to manage our good relations with other countries in the world.
Our priority in that aspect are Islamic countries and the Non-Aligned Movement countries as well as other countries in the world.
In fact our motto is that we have to change Iranophobia to the love for Iran and we are putting this as the main basis for our jobs so that we could have good relations with other countries in the world.
Press TV: It seems that your plans are mostly focused on the economy. Do you believe that the infrastructure exists for these plans to be implemented?
Aref: This is a good question, so let me open this subject a little bit.
Our main priority is correcting the structures. If I become president I would immediately revive the management organization as the heart of planning for the country.
If we want to be successful in following our development plans and our visions, we have no alternative but to stick to oder in implementing our plans.
We can already see the result of personal opinions currently being put into action.
The independence of the banking system is also what we are planning.
Some of the problems that we are facing in the countryâ„¢s economy such as inflation, is an increasing of liquidity, which has increased from 65 thousand billion Rials to 450 thousand billion Rials in the past seven years.
Now if this liquidity is directed towards the productivity, fine! That is justifiable but otherwise not.
We are also seeking to strengthen councils that play a significant role in the countryâ„¢s progress; such as the Money and Credit Council, which we believe that the Central Bank has to act independently from the government.
We believe in councils that act in the framework of the system but independent from the government.
We will revive the Council of Economy and the Supreme Council for Science and Technology, which should be in a position to transfer technology into wealth.
These are problems that we believe have priority. Implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution is the most important part of the economy.
I believe that saving the countryâ„¢s economy is in the hands of diminishing of the intervention of the government in the private sector, which I will try to seriously follow.
Press TV: In what ways would you criticize the current government?
Aref: Of course every government has its positive and negative points but I believe that I have to focus on my future plans rather than talking about the past.
What it is true is that this government has had achievements and also shortcomings that through our plans we hope that we could also solve those problems as well.
Press TV: One of the main issues that is currently being questioned by people is the issue of the subsidy reform plan and the cash handouts.
Do you believe that the plan was implemented the way it should have been? Would you want to do it differently and do you believe that these cash handouts were a good idea?
Aref: Well, it has been a dream for every government after the [Islamic] Revolution to regulate the subsidies.
When we see the energy index of subsidy in gasoline, a person in the first decile, who is a rich person, would benefit 45 times more than that of a person in the lower decile and this does not conform with the motto of justice and in all governments there has been a debate about regulating the subsidies.
Of course in the third and fourth Development Plans there have been talks about that but the government of President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had this opportunity to implement the subsidy reform plan at a time when there was harmony between different government bodies.
But unfortunately in implementing the plan we see too many problems that resulted in increasing inflation whereas the plan was to help the less prosperous part of the society, through targeting the subsidies, by decreasing the inflation rate and through the distribution of cash handouts the infrastructures were supposed to be strengthened.
We were supposed to have a comprehensive social security system and a productive economy.
Well, the government paid attention only to a part of this; for example in productivity the government was supposed to give a 30 percent protection to the production sector so that the balance of demand and supply would stay in its place but this did not happen.
Or in social security the government was supposed to pay more attention to the social security system by paying ten to twenty percent of the share of the regulation of the subsidies to social security but in its first phase it is difficult to judge the system but we can analyze and by our analysis from the first phase, then if it is necessary, we can move forward towards the second phase.
Press TV: And as the final question I would like to know your opinion about the current economic situation in Iran and the problems that the people are dealing with.
Do you believe that these problems are an effect of the Western sanctions that have been imposed on Iran or are they a consequence of mismanagement inside the country?
Aref: Definitely the sanctions have been effective somehow but our people are very strong.
We have been able to handle eight years of war. The economic problems that we are facing is currently the result of mismanagement and working outside the frameworks and ignoring the implementation of laws.
We are hopeful that by implementing and paying more attention to the law we can decrease the pressures of the sanctions on the people.
This article originally appeared on: Press TV