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Discontent With Public Services Scrutinized

One reason behind the downward spiral of public services in Iran might be the government’s tight budget.One reason behind the downward spiral of public services in Iran might be the government’s tight budget.

The Administrative Justice Court receives the lion’s share of complaints against public entities about the conduct of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, Social Security Organization, municipalities and the Ministry of Education, the head of the top court said.

“These organizations are in direct contact with different members of the society, such as teachers, workers and pensioners,” Mohammad Kazem Bahrami added.  

People’s dissatisfaction might not be fully blamed on these agencies’ failure to conform to rules and regulations. In fact, governmental institutions, which not only include the executive branch but also all bodies tasked with providing public services, seem to be failing in discharging their primary responsibilities.

“What partly justifies the existence of a government is provision of these services,” Davoud Souri, an economist, told Financial Tribune’s sister publication Tejarat-e Farda weekly.

“The government receives tax to provide basic services to the public, including protecting their security and ensuring social order … The responsibility of offering education and health services falls on the government as well.”

One reason behind the downward spiral of public services in Iran might be the government’s tight budget. The fact that the country’s budget is mainly reliant on oil revenues might explain why Iranian governments fail to deliver adequate public services.

The absence of an independent monitoring organization in the country over the years has exacerbated the situation.

“The government is inclined to consider people responsible for everything. In winter, it asks people not to consume natural gas. In summer, it asks people not to consume electricity, whereas it is up to the government to invest in infrastructures and provide people’s basic needs without any problem,” Souri said.  

“Poor public services undermine the relationship between the people and the government. Taxpayers unhappy with public services would evade taxation, as far as possible, and this would in turn take its toll on the government’s budget.”

The economist noted that another reason that explains why the government does not bother to improve its public services is that Iranians have not learned to hold their officials accountable. Complaints filed with the Administrative Justice Court only reflect a fraction of people’s discontent with government services. After all, the benefits of questioning the government go to the whole society. The whole thing makes the role of non-governmental organizations in safeguarding the rights of the public more prominent.

Souri viewed as a positive move the Citizens’ Rights Charter unveiled in the last Iranian year (March 2016-17) and said the charter won’t solve a problem on its own.

“How to implement the articles of the charter is of greater importance, as citizen must be able to solve their problems with public agencies at a minimum cost,” he concluded.  

President Hassan Rouhani unveiled the 120-article charter back on December 19 to fulfill one of his 2013 electoral promises to clearly delineate, promote and defend the rights of citizens. It is meant to raise public awareness on their rights and commits all government bodies to ensure their enforcement.

Rouhani appointed a special assistant tasked with supervising, coordinating and pursuing the appropriate implementation of the government’s obligations under the charter. It requires bodies affiliated with the executive branch to prepare the plan for developing the framework for implementing its articles within six months from the date of the charter’s publication.

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