At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Cerisola issued the following statement:
“The agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and the envisaged lifting of economic sanctions bring a unique opportunity to build on and broaden the achievements of the past two years. Prudent policies have allowed the economy to return to positive growth last year and to reduce inflation to around 15 percent. The authorities have also regained stability in the foreign exchange market and advanced with subsidy reform.
“However, the economy faces severe structural challenges. The sharp decline in global oil prices has cooled off the momentum in economic activity. The corporate sector confronts weak demand with large inventories and low capacity utilization. The banking system faces high nonperforming assets that have resulted in unsustainably high real interest rates and stagnant credit to the economy. Arrears accumulated by the public sector over the past two years compound these problems. As of December 2014, unemployment remained at 10.5 percent.
“The economy is weak at present. The sharp decline in global oil prices, tight corporate and bank balance sheets, and postponed consumption and investment decisions ahead of the expected lifting of economic sanctions, have significantly slowed down economic activity since the fourth quarter of 2014/15. The economy may have contracted during the first half of 2015/16, and as a result, real GDP growth is projected to decline from 3 percent in 2014/15 to somewhere between 0.5 to -0.5 percent in 2015/16, depending on the exact timing of the expected lifting of sanctions. Twelve-month (point-to-point) inflation has declined to around 12 percent in recent months, largely reflecting lower food and beverage inflation, and the inflation rate is expected to remain close to 14 percent by year-end.