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Iran's Plundered Future

By By Vahid Isabeigi, Canada

One of the gambits deployed very assertively by the clergy at the very outset of the revolution was the fact that unlike the preceding regime, Iranians should have equal access to the country's incalculable wealth, which they asserted was not being evenly distributed to the populace, and that the shah and his family, in his lavish extravaganzas held frequently, expended it inconsiderately. Therefore, upon seizing power, these clerics had announced that they would no longer let Iran's enviably great wealth be plundered and that they represented the downtrodden stratum of the society that has constantly been abased and deprived of the right to get their rightful share from this massive cake. However, 24 years after the outbreak of the revolution, the trends exhibit how Iran's economy, thanks to outrageous ravages by mullahs, has deteriorated to such extents that even if the best economical schemes were employed overnight, the impacts of their [mullahs'] mismanagement are likely to reverberate for decades to come. Clerics, while having repeatedly declared their support for the society's neglected spectrum, have concocted a bizarre capitalism addressing their own ilk which doesn't have any resemblance to any internationally-accepted system. This corrupt system, which has caused an average Iranian to get 7% poorer as opposed to the pre-revolutionary Iran, has substantially taken its toll on Iranians.

Over this lengthy stretch of time, the bonyads,the so-called Foundations of the Oppressed, each of which is operated by a well-to-do mullah, have been hoisted to a level where they have the final say over the economical policies of the country. Having pocketed a considerable amount of the country's wealth, these bonyads constitute the prime reason for the spread of corruption, which has turned into one of the most intractable economical and social glitches the country is plagued with. In fact, if it hadn't been for these bonyads, which form the backbone of the regime and which, contemporaneously, are founded with the money pinched from ordinary Iranians who are forced to contribute huge sums of money to these organisations, the economy could have seen signs of improvement.

In order to fathom the basic structure of the Iranian economy, it should be reminded that the economy of Iran appears under two different facades. One facade is the one which is under the hegemony of the moderates and which is supposed to cater for ordinary people of all walks. Compared with the second guise, not much budget is allocated to this one. This branch encompasses basic services employing millions (namely the majority of the working population) of not-necessarily-very-devout people. These people are comprised of teachers, majority of state employees, and workers, all of whom have born the brunt of the state's outrageous economical mismanagement. The second and less conspicuous facade of the Iranian economy is the one controlled by the bonyads which are dominant on automobile production, the extraction of the country's petroleum, hotels, banks, shipment companies, and many other vital industries. According to a recent news item by IRNA, 70% of the country's immense wealth is controlled by these 3000 hard-liners, all of whom have grown immeasurably wealthy. That is why the majority of the country's population of 65 million people, who are only permitted to control 30% of the wealth, have been suffering from the lack of most indispensable food products. In fact, the consumption of meat, due to the inability of millions of people to afford it, has plummeted substantially. Iranian cities are nowadays home to hundreds of thousands of street children and mendicants with a tendency towards increasing. As is apparent, just as in the state structure of Iran, Iran has two economies. This, in other words, signifies that in Iran there exists a state within a state.

While the the monopoly of the wealthy mullahs on economy in Iran has precipitated a weird sort of capitalism to take form, the tolerance of these foregoing invincible rulers of 3000 mullahs to the emergence of private sector is inexplicably low. The development of private sector, despite the perseverance of people engaged in this sector, has for decades been stunted and discouraged. What does really scourge the mullahs about the possible emergence of a viable private sector? Why are the hard-liners so opposed to laissez-faire? After all, Islamic Republic bears no resemblance to any communist state where the wealth is supposedly distributed equally amongst all the members of the society. Neither does its moribund economy look like that of a social republic or a pure capitalist state. Given all these yardsticks, what forms the source of mullahs' contempt for the emergence of a private sector? The answer is very facile: greed. Since the bonyads operated by these personages are dominant on the country's major industrial facilities, the clerics are diametrically opposed to the emergence of strong competitors operating in the realm of the industries they control since they are well aware that in an atmosphere of competition, due to their abysmal service and the low quality of the products they manufacture, they would be vanquished miserably in the presence of their private competitors. The existing private competitors are hardly capable of surviving (with a myriad of them going bankrupt every year) while being constantly harassed in a bid of the state to incapacitate them. For instance, why isn't a single private automobile manufacturing company allowed to exist in Iran? The answer is very simple: The affluent mullahs who own automobile factories do not want to confront the hassle of having to produce higher quality cars in order to compete with their potential rivals. That is why, despite the ineffably low quality of cars manufactured within the country, Iran today is one of the most expensive places on earth in terms of the prices of cars. That is why, shabby Paykaans, built after 1960 model English Helmand and still possessing exactly the same qualities, cost around 7.500$. The clerics, due to their lack of skills in the field of industry and also to their disinclination, find it appropriate that ordinary Iranians ride in 1960-style junks even at indescribably jolting prices while they themselves can make billions of dollars by thwarting the development of private enterprise thus augmenting their sway on the Iranian economy. This despite the fact that the poorly-produced automobiles on Iran's roads have been blamed to be amongst the main instigators of hundreds of thousands of accidents claiming thousands of lives annually.

The same propensity is evident in the suffering and almost non-existent tourism sector of the country as well. It is amazing that along with cars and other industrial goods, the country's all luxurious hotels belong to any of these 3000 mullahs, who, owing to their sheer inexperience to run such facilities, have seriously caused the number of customers to decline while turning down any entrepreneur intending to construct posh hotels or tourism facilities since this would be deleterious to their own business. In other words, ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the mullahs' inexperience who, while dominating the sector, don't even allow a single competitor to emerge. Privatisation, which was prescribed by a few reformist politicians as the only cure to Iran's ailing economy, has frequently been impeded. In fact, the country's popularly elected but powerless president, Khatami, has many times expressed his dejection of the lack of ample privatisation.

The same attitude of these powerful and affluent mullahs owning bonyads is very prominent in the backbone of the Iranian Economy, i.e., the petroleum sector. For more than two decades, on account of inadvisable policies with respect to the extraction, production, and consumption of petroleum along with the foregoing restrictions imposed on private sector, Iran's economy has never been permitted to reduce its enduring dependence on this product( as is evident from the fact that more than 80% of the export revenues are earned from petroleum). While public access to the management of petroleum industry is strictly forbidden by these well-to-do mullahs, the lack of knowledge evinced by these clerics to properly run this branch of industry has shown its adverse and preposterous outcomes. Due to the dilapidated state of the refineries in Iran, the petrol produced within the country has an inconceivably low quality. This poses two very pernicious long-term consequences for the country: Firstly, it causes the low-quality (but somehow overpriced) domestically-produced automobiles to break down quite easily, thus causing hundreds of dollars of damage to the engine of the car purchased by the owner. Secondly, and foremost, the low quality of domestically-produced cars along with the poor quality of Iran's petrol, thanks to the decrepit state of the refineries, have given rise to Tehran's infamous air pollution, a problem that has reached such acute levels that Tehran's air is conceived as one of the lowest quality in the world. Apart from Tehran, other growing cities have started to experience this insurmountable problem. These are all attributable to the fact that the clerics are unwilling to relinquish the assets they have seized and are reluctant to neither improve these sectors nor let the private sector step in. The very same trend is also noticeable in the exports of the country. Why doesn't Iran export a significant amount of industrial items (if ever it does)? The answer is, the plight of Iran's industry is so wretched that not many third world countries would think about importing the low-quality industrial items produced by Iran. In this case, what do the mullahs in charge resort to? Very simple: they seek to sell them to their own people from incredibly high prices to compensate for the damage while strictly blocking the legal entrance of higher quality foreign goods.

Given these strict conditions and appalling quality of domestically produced industrial goods, many Iranians who are stultified with this status quo are virtually, if not explicitly, compelled by the state to illegally import foreign made, higher quality, and more affordable items such as electronic goods, which are widely available on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Yet, the clerics in Iran, who lag behind when it comes to handling the mammoth task of adapting the Iranian industry to that of the modern world, have not missed the opportunity to avidly partake in the smuggling business. In fact, many dockyards on the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf are operated by Agha-Zadehs, who engage very actively in smuggling billions-dollars-worth tax-free goods into the country.

What is more, the grave conditions of economy and the Iranian Industry divulge a highly bizarre trend: Most Asian countries that were economically less advanced than Iran, have, thanks to their decisive efforts, now greatly surpassed Iran in various aspects. South Korea, which is defined as the emerging industrial empire of the Asian continent, has moved from the position of a struggling economy into one of the world's leading industrial powers. It should be noted that until 1979, the GDP per capita in South Korea was lower than that of Iran. At present, South Korea is one of the major trading partners of Iran engaging in billions-of-dollars worth investments. Furthermore, Malaysia, which until more than two decades ago was riven with ethnic strife and a bleak economy, is now named as one of the most auspicious economies of the world. Malaysia's prominent car, Proton is agreed to be sold to Iran based on the trade deals ratified between the two countries. Turkey, which is still desperately struggling with its battered economy, has started to give signs of improvement when the plans for the total amount of exports has, this year, exceeded $40 dollars (almost twice as much as that of Iran). Despite $170 billions of debt, if Turkey's endeavours of being admitted into the European Union reach fruition, nothing can preclude this country from improving the grim conditions inside. These developments in the countries mentioned have taken place while Iran's economy has been facing horrendous problems caused by the mullahs' ill-advised economical policies, which have caused the life standard of an average Iranian from being higher than that of South Korea to fall as much as to the level of that of an average Algerian.

Accordingly, where is these astronomical amounts of money collected from ordinary people spent? One recent news item prepared by the BBC is adequate to shed light on this catastrophe. According to this news item, the general public was rather discontent with having to pay 20% of the cost of every automobile purchased to Khaamaanei. Perdictably it didn't take Khaamaanei long to strike back and lash out at the people spreading these so-called rumours that he and the institutions under his sway expropriate such huge sums of money clandestinely from the purchasers of cars. Just how serious is the scope of this case? A simple computation would expose the grave nature of the situation: As is discerned, the bonyads in Iran manufacture cars worth from $7.500 (Paykan for instance) to $15.000 (Sahand for instance) and to even $20.000 (Peugeot Pars). If the average value of a car is taken as $10.000 and given that there are 500.000 cars produced in Iran annually according to the government figures and that 20% of the actual cost of every car is forcibly donated to Khaamaanei, how much is collected by this personage annually? A simple calculation ($10.000 x 500.000 x 20% = 1 billion dollars) would bring to our attention this inconceivable number of 1 billion dollars. It should be born in mind that this 1 billion dollars is merely the quantity of the so-called tax collected by Khaamaanei and his cronies only from automobile sales. Besides, a recent commission including several members of the parliament and some officials of the central bank, at a meeting, questioned the whereabouts of 80 billion Tomans taken by Khaamaanei. Can anyone envision the extent to which Iranians are plundered as far as other industries and other clerics are concerned? This is a riddle for the readers to think of and solve. Accordingly, what can a mullah like Khaamaanei do with these exorbitant amounts of money? This money simply ends up in the stomachs of thousands of Ensaareh Hezbollah thugs in Iran and some militants in Lebanon. Of course, the organisations headed by Khaamaanei have put Iranians through indescribable miseries. Majority of the money seized by Khaamaanei is utilised to feed the stooges of the regime, who have sworn allegiance to defend it at all costs by even resorting to mauling and mutilating people they deem as counter-revolutionary or harmful to the existence of the regime.In other words, these thugs who are reared with the money collected from general public are mobilised to savagely attack, thrash, and imprison many ordinary people who are seen as seeds of dissent.

24 years from the revolution, the mullahs have miserably failed to create this so-called idyllic society they were so emphatically referring to. Instead, Iran is in the throes of the biggest political, social, and economical crisis of its recent history.


About the author:
Vahid Isabeigi is an Iranian student studing in the field of engineering in Ottawa, Canada. 



... Payvand News - 10/1/03 ... --

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