Iran is grappling with a long-standing issue of governmental corruption that has seeped into various aspects of its administration. From embezzlement scandals to opaque financial dealings, the nation has struggled to maintain transparency and accountability within its political structures.
A recent revelation by Ahmad Tavakoli, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ‘Transparency and Justice Watch Institution,’ sheds light on a concerning instance of corruption tied to the so-called productivity of government assets. Judicial immunity and unchecked authority have allowed a seven-member committee to profit immensely from the sale of government assets, all while leaving the Iranian public to grapple with the soaring prices of housing and land.
The third letter from Ahmad Tavakoli, who is also a member of the Expediency Council of the regime, regarding the resolution on productivity of the government assets, has once again brought attention to a plan that some economists have dubbed the ‘auctioning off of public property.’
In this letter, Ahmad Tavakoli cautions the representatives of the Islamic Council that by incorporating this resolution into the seventh program bill, all corrupt and unethical actions could potentially be disguised as legal activities.
The ‘Production’ plan, originally proposed by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, to the Supreme Council for Economic Coordination of the Heads of the three branches in 2020, aims to sell surplus government property in Iran. It received Khamenei’s approval in November 2022, according to the Guardian Council’s spokesperson. This resolution came into effect in November 2022 with the formation of a seven-member board vested with special and unusual powers, including ‘judicial immunity’ and ‘suspension of other laws.’
The promulgation of the executive regulations of the productivity resolution in February of last year sparked disputes among economists and academics. However, the regime, ignoring these criticisms and protests, commenced its work in secrecy without clarifying the decisions made by this board.
Since the approval of this resolution, although various lists of government property available for sale have surfaced in the media, none of them have received official government approval. Only some reports regarding the resolutions of this board indicate that 990 government properties and assets are set to be sold based on this resolution.
The first public acknowledgment of the implementation of this plan occurred in this year’s budget law, where it was announced that 109 trillion tomans in revenue from the sale and transfer of government property under the same plan were budgeted for in 2022.
A report by the regime’s Parliament Research Center concerning the productivity resolution stated, ‘While it is expected that the Supreme Economic Coordination Council’s resolution on the productivity of government assets will impact the approaches and outcomes in this area in the coming year, the full realization of such figures faces serious uncertainty.’
The serious ambiguities highlighted in the Parliament Research Center’s report on the productivity resolution have raised suspicions that, with the support of Khamenei, the government’s intention is to sell government property at any price, ranging from below market value to installment plans.
Even though it’s certain that production revenues won’t materialize in this year’s budget, according to the Parliament Research Center’s report, other methods have been proposed for selling this property, such as offering installment plans under one year, long-term rentals, or property and goods exchanges.
While the question of how to sell and distribute government property under the Productivity plan remains unresolved, it remains uncertain exactly how much of this wealth is intended to be sold at lower prices, as suggested by economic experts.
Hossein Gorbanzadeh, the former head of the Privatization Organization, stated in debates last March that the estimated value of these properties at 2016 prices was about seven trillion tomans, equivalent to the country’s entire GDP (gross domestic product).
One suggested method for selling these properties is in installments, as proposed by the Parliament Research Center. This government body noted in its report that selling government property has been slow and challenging under privatization laws, with only 11 trillion tomans in revenue generated over the last six years.
The Parliament Research Center also pointed out that ‘unofficial reports suggest that the number of unsuccessful auctions for government properties in the country has been very high in recent years, with one factor being the requirement for buyers to pay a lump sum.’
Since the production resolution’s legalization, the most significant objection has been regarding the distribution of rent for the seven-member Supreme Council, an issue first raised by Hassan Sobhani. He stated that five percent of the property’s sale proceeds would go to those involved in their sale.
According to this law, the seven-member delegation includes Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ehsan Khanduzi, Minister of Interior Ahmad Vahidi, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash, Head of the Planning and Budget Organization Davoud Manzoor, one representative from the speaker of the parliament, and one representative from the judiciary.
In a part of his 18-page critical letter published in February last year, Hassan Sobhani criticized the Productivity resolution, stating, ‘The presence of terms like the non-governmental sector, public-private partnership, settlement of legal fees and services, non-governmental persons, and contractors is sufficient to predict the type of individuals who will acquire the state’s assets, as well as the destructive consequences of this kind of ‘property auction.”
Ahmad Tavakoli wrote a critical letter to the parliament and the heads of the three branches. Unlike Sobhani, Tavakoli has continued to write protest and critical letters for the past seven months.
Tavakoli’s first letter was published on February 4, 2023, just one week after the executive regulations for the productivity of government assets were announced. In that letter, Tavakoli likened the implementation of this plan to the actions of an addict who, after exhausting his income, starts selling his property and furniture.
His second letter was published at the end of July this year, following the presentation of the seventh program bill to the parliament. In this letter, he described some parts of the 7th plan bill related to the productivity plan as ‘illegal’ and warned that their legalization would lead to ‘legal corruption,’ which he considered an internal capitulation no one could tolerate.
Tavakoli’s third letter, recently published and addressed to the parliament members, lists the legal problems and implementation effects of this resolution. He referred to the members of the High Board of the Productivity Plan as ‘invulnerable,’ who are receiving substantial salaries.
Tavakoli’s recent letter holds particular significance for two reasons. Firstly, he raises a question about whether Khamenei has withdrawn his permission to implement this resolution. This is noteworthy as Hadi Tahan Nazif, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, had previously announced that the production resolution was approved by the leader of the regime, and therefore, it ‘has a legal basis.’ This raises the possibility that Khamenei may have shifted his stance on supporting this plan.
The second crucial point is the disclosure of an eight billion tomans salary for the seven-member board. Tavakoli’s statement cannot be attributed to ignorance, given his close alignment with the regime’s principlist faction. This revelation has apparently unsettled the government to the extent that the Privatization Organization has threatened to declare it a crime and prosecute Tavakoli in response to his letter.
The Productivity Plan of the government assets, now tied to the fate of the seventh development plan bill, represents a long-term strategy and a new source of revenue for a regime that has consistently faced budget deficits.
According to Rahim Mombeini, deputy director of the Planning and Budget Organization, this year’s budget deficit is approximately 794 trillion tomans. This is a significant challenge for a government grappling with the hefty costs of cash subsidies and the difficulty in generating income from oil sales.
Regardless of how much production occurs secretly or how much government officials like Malek Rahmati, the head of the privatization organization, deny rumors and suspicions about the sale of government property, the scale of the assets and wealth slated for auction is not something that can remain hidden indefinitely.
Source » irannewsupdate