The government of reformist Iranian President Mohammed Khatami is basing next year's budget on an oil price of 20 dollars per barrel, parliamentary officials said in Monday's press.
"Twenty dollars a barrel is realistic and can be achieved," said Reza Ramezanpour from the legislature's budget committee.
Khatami is due to formally present the budget, for the next Iranian year of March 2001 to March 2002, on Wednesday.
The government set a 14.80-dollar price for the current year, which was later pushed down a dollar by parliament when it approved the budget.
The move had been intended to avoid the budget shortfall of the previous two years, when a collapse on the oil market worldwide left Iran with a more than five billion-dollar deficits.
Now resurgent oil prices have left Iran with around six billion dollars in surplus since April, prompting heated partisan debate about what to do with the proceeds.
Conservatives have been blasting the reformist government in recent days over what they charge is an election ploy after the central bank apparently flooded the parallel exchange market with petro-dollars.
They say the government wanted to make the dollar, Iran's benchmark for all financial transactions, cheaper in the run-up to the May presidential poll to help Khatami's bid for a second term.
Conservatives fear that the saturation of the marketplace with dollars is designed to make things tighter for their key supporters, merchants who export non-petroleum products.
Iran gets some 85 percent of its hard currency from oil exports – TEHRAN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)