Protests Call for Revisit of Draft Annual Budget Bill

Protests Call for Revisit of Draft Annual Budget BillProtests Call for Revisit of Draft Annual Budget Bill
The terms of the draft budget bill that call for restricting the number of cash subsidy recipients and increasing fuel prices have prompted parliamentary objections

Recent street protests underline the need for a revision of the budget government has proposed for the next Iranian fiscal year to shift its focus toward addressing urgent livelihood problems of the people, a lawmaker said.

"Recent protests have been prompted only by the economic woes facing the people. They are demonstrations against the economic approach and policies and current economic situation of the country," Abbas Goudarzi said in a Sunday talk with Fars News Agency.

Demonstrations have been held in several cities around the country as of Thursday mainly over the economic performance of the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who has failed to fulfill a pledge to bring economic prosperity.

Protestors express their discontent by chanting slogans, especially regarding price increases and high unemployment.

Last month, Rouhani proposed to the parliament a budget of 3,681 trillion rials (nearly $104 billion at the official exchange rate) for the next Iranian year, which starts on March 21, 2018.

This marks a nearly 6% increase from the budget plan for the current year, regardless of the inflation rate of 10%.

But Rouhani is facing public criticism for his poor attention to national economic problems and declining living standards.

Goudarzi criticized the terms of the budget that call for restricting the number of cash subsidy recipients and increasing fuel prices.

"The overnight elimination of 30 million people from the list of cash subsidy receivers would be problematic because they involve part of the lower-income strata of the society and this is among the main reasons for objections," he said.

"Majlis has allowed the government to raise fuel prices steadily but slowly … not abruptly."

Under the Subsidy Reform Plan initiated by Rouhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010, subsidies on food and energy were removed and every Iranian was paid 455,000 rials, or less than $11, on a monthly basis.

To become law, the draft budget has to be passed by the parliament and approved by the Guardians Council, a clerical body that vets any legislation's conformity with Islamic principles and constitutional articles.

  Need for Restraint

Another parliamentarian, Gholamreza Heydari, concurred with Goudarzi about the underlying cause of the protests and cautioned the government against using force and violence in response to the demonstrations.

"Definitely, one of the main factors fueling the protests is the erroneous economic approach pursued from the beginning of the Islamic Republic," which was established following the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed dictator  Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Heydari told ICANA.

"Based on the past experience of other countries in dealing with protestors, using security and military force would be the worst kind of response that could impose dangerous consequences on the country," the lawmaker added.


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