Iran’s Raisi talks about tough economic decisions ahead

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President Ebrahim Raisi spoke at length about the economy for the first time after protests rocked parts of the country in response to the government’s hike in food prices.

That This was reported by the official IRNA news agency on Saturday, May 21that “hundreds of experts and businessmen attended the gathering,” which the agency described as “the first international privatization event in Iran.”

In his speech at the event, Raisi made no mention of last week’s protests or the violent treatment of protesters by the security forces, particularly in Iran’s western provinces. However, as business journalist Maryam Shokrani has observed, he pointed out “There are tough choices to be made that some people may not agree with.”

Raisi also focused on the controversial issue of privatization in Iran, saying that “privatization does not mean abandoning industrial units. It is the beginning of government oversight of privatized companies.”

The government of the Islamic Republic, religious institutions and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) directly or indirectly own 80 percent of the economy, amidst nepotism and corruption which has led to crippling mismanagement.

For the past 15 years, successive governments have talked about privatization, but with a formidable security apparatus and a concentration of power in the hands of insiders, only they have been able to benefit from the sell-off of state assets.

In recent years, hundreds of workers at privatized companies, particularly in Khuzestan and the Central Province, have protested the privatization process that has turned many government companies over to well-connected but often disinterested and unprofessional individuals who only use the assets to borrow heavily from government banks , with no intention of repaying them.

Many of these companies, including Haft Tappeh Sugar Mill and Arak Heavy Equipment Factory, which have been profitable in the past, are now on the brink of bankruptcy, according to their employees.

Post-revolutionary privatization over the last four decades has been criticized by the populace, workers and companies alike. Many believe that profitable companies have been handed over to the IRGC, which effectively owns the lion’s share of productive companies in Iran.

While Raisi said on Saturday that privatization is strengthening the private sector, many have often accused IRGC’s takeovers of companies as leaving little room for the private sector in Iran.

However, Raisi called for looking back and reviewing the privatization process that has taken place. He said “a fair and critical examination of the past is essential and unavoidable” so that lessons can be learned and corruption prevented.

Raisi spoke about the motivation of “non-state corporations” while the government’s intervention in the market caused prices of essential goods to rise and inflation in Iran, leading to protests in which the people of Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei protested Called for resignation below and chanted slogans in favor of a secular government.

In an interview published on Didban Iran’s websiteIranian sociologist Mohammad Reza Mahboobfar warned that the current economic situation, especially politics and the elimination of food and fuel subsidies, have already led to social problems such as an increase in crime, including food theft.

He said last week’s protests had alarmed leaders that Iranian society was being divided into a majority of extremely poor people and a minority of the super-rich. Mahboobfar warned that what has been dubbed an “economic operation” by government officials should be halted immediately amid concerns about the growing divide between socioeconomic classes.

Mahboobfar warned: “It’s dangerous to scare the masses.”

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