IMF plans to review Iranian economy next year
WASHINGTON, Nov 11 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) plans to conduct a regular assessment of Iran's economy early next year, the first time in over two years, Fund staff said after a visit to the country.
An IMF mission would allow the Fund to take a closer look at the impact of Western sanctions and provide a sorely needed outside analysis of the economy and growth prospects. The IMF last visited Iran for a full economic review in July 2011.
Sanctions targeted at Iran's disputed nuclear program have hurt trade and largely frozen Iran out of the international banking system since late 2011.
The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations in September, a sign of a slight thaw in relations between Tehran and the West since Rouhani took office.
In a statement after its visit on Monday, the IMF said it discussed Iran's high inflation and ways to restore economic growth, as well as its plans to address subsidy reform and other structural issues.
"The authorities' understanding of the challenges and the high expectations of several sectors in the economy provide a timely opportunity for advancing such reforms, notwithstanding the difficult external environment," the IMF said.
Iran's state oil refining and gas firms have complained that they have nothing to invest in vital projects and are also running out of cash to pay households dealing with higher fuel prices and inflation.
Senior government officials also warned in August that Iran faces a shortfall of one third of this year's budget of about $68 billion that has been earmarked for March 2013-March 2014.
In October, the IMF forecast that Iran's gross domestic product would shrink 1.5 percent this year after contracting 1.9 last year, though it would resume growth of 1.3 percent in 2014. But the Fund said its analysis was limited because data from the central bank was still pending.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Ken Wills)