Economy, Domestic Economy

Experts Contest Splitting Ministry of Roads, Urban Development

Experts Contest Splitting Ministry of Roads, Urban DevelopmentExperts Contest Splitting Ministry of Roads, Urban Development

The Iranian Parliament is currently discussing a bill proposed by the government to restructure three ministries.

The bill calls for the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade to be split into the Ministry of Industries and Mines, and Trade Ministry. It proposes dividing the Ministry of Sports and Youth into Sports Ministry and the National Youth Organization, with the Roads and Urban Development Ministry to be split into the Ministry of Road and Transport and the Ministry of Housing and Urbanization.

But the proposal has its own opponents, arguing among other things, that the splitting process is costly and time-consuming.

Mohsen Pourseyyed-Aqaei, former chairman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, says the advantages of the merger of the two ministries of housing and transportation in late 2012 outweighs the disadvantages and that the proposed split would be a “mistake”.

“Concepts of urbanism and transportation are interlinked … You can’t separate the two,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.  “A unified Ministry of Roads and Urban Development provided an opportunity for the government to have a holistic approach to urbanization and transportation.”

Pourseyyed-Aqaei said the government had made mistakes in the design and development of transportation infrastructures before President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013.

“Train stations used to be located more than 10 kilometers outside the cities. Under the current administration, this approach has been amended.”

As the rail industry has gained strong momentum in the past few years, the ministry has prioritized a “rail-oriented urbanization” concept that stipulates the integration of rail transport with urban life.

Parallel to a plan to connect five new provincial capitals to the rail network over the past months, the ministry has put forward a plan to relocate the previously designed and constructed train stations in those cities to bring them closer to the concentrated urban population.

Development of suburban trains has also gathered pace lately to help tackle the fundamental problems of big cities, including air pollution and fuel profligacy.

The parliament recently approved a law to create a dedicated state-owned company for suburban trains.

“During the four years of Abbas Akhoundi in office as minister of roads and urban development, the ministry has been able to find common ground between the two concepts [transportation and urban development] and based on the commonalities, improve linkages in these areas,” Pirouz Hanachi, secretary of the Supreme Iranian Council of Urban Development and Architecture wrote in the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.

He also referred to large-scale national plans, notably the development of the coast of Makran alongside the Sea of Oman, that have proceeded successfully as a result of the new approach in the ministry.

The government has approved a strategic plan for the development of the southern coast, setting guidelines to achieve sustainable development of the region and benefit its indigenous people while lowering social and environmental damage.

The guidelines provide a list of locations whose development would entail minimum environmental and social consequences and maximum economic benefit for the residents of Makran.

The move to carry out the comprehensive research project came after Asalouyeh in southern Bushehr Province suffered environmental harm and unrestrained migration after the development of energy facilities in the past few years. If approved by the parliament, the bill to split the ministries would reverse a measure by former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his last days in office in 2012 to merge several ministries with the aim of downsizing a massive government to make it more efficient.

The proposal to divide the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, however, appears to be rooted in concerns over the continuation of a longstanding recession in the housing sector, whose sorry state of affairs has been arguably neglected in recent years compared with the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

Hanachi said the reasons for the housing sector slump should not be sought in the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, as the sector’s growth hinges on decisions made by the Ministry of Economy that controls taxes and loans.

Echoing similar remarks, Pourseyyed-Aqaei said, “If the monetary policies and those related to taxation and banking do not change, bisecting the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development alone will not have any effect on housing sector growth.”

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