Spending Bill Critics Urged to Offer Viable Solutions

Spending Bill Critics Urged to Offer Viable Solutions  Spending Bill Critics Urged to Offer Viable Solutions

Deputy for political affairs at the presidential office, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, chided the government's critics for questioning certain terms of its proposed budget to parliament without offering viable alternatives to those terms.

President Hassan Rouhani submitted the draft budget bill for the next fiscal year (March 2018-19) to the Majlis on Dec. 17.

The nearly $104 billion draft spending bill, which shows a 6% increase compared with the budget plan for the current Iranian year, has met criticism from both the public and some officials, including parliamentarians.

Critics have particularly targeted provisions that stipulate a hike in fuel prices and a cut in the number of government cash handout recipients.

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.

"If the Majlis intends to oppose the government's objective proposals, it should come up with alternative solutions," Takht-Ravanchi told IRNA in a recent interview.

"If it merely shows opposition without proposing anything, we will witness lingering high unemployment and extreme poverty, which would effectively amount to continued stagnation," he said.

Grievances over rising prices envisaged in the budget and the allocation of substantial budget shares to certain unaccountable organizations led thousands of Iranians, already frustrated with the government's pledge to generate jobs and curb rampant corruption, to vent their anger by taking to the streets in dozens of cities.

The protests sparked calls from lawmakers for major amendments to the government's proposed budget.

Rouhani has resisted those calls, arguing that the budget bill was the outcome of hours of painstaking work by experts and was drawn up with a special view to eliminating poverty and boosting employment.

"The articles envisaged in the budget are meant to eradicate extreme poverty. The Majlis and lawmakers should not back away," Rouhani said earlier this week, citing the sum it has allocated for plans to create jobs.

"The government has earmarked about $7 billion for promoting youth employment and tackle joblessness. Is it wise to vote to eliminate this decision which is the result of expert work?"

  Thorny Issue

A 50% increase has been envisaged for the price of gasoline in the next year's budget. Gasoline prices now stand at 10,000 rials or a quarter of a dollar.  

Fuel prices have always been a tricky issue in Iran's economy as many people's livelihood gets affected by them.

Enjoying rich natural energy resources, Iran had offered fuel subsidies for many years, making it one of the nations with the cheapest prices.

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

The week-long demonstrations took a violent turn hours after their eruption, leaving 21 people dead and hundreds more injured.

According to lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeqi a total of 3700 protestors have been arrested by different security bodies.

Most of those arrested have been released on bail but riot leaders remain in custody and would face severe punishment, a police spokesperson has said.

Takht-Ravanchi said the government is in close consultation with the judiciary to secure the release of the remaining detainees.

"The government believes students and others that were not linked to any [hostile entity] should be freed as soon as possible. A number of them are now going through the release process and some others will be freed over time, with the rest expected to face sentences by the judicial system."

Reports have been circulating that several protestors have committed suicide in detention since the unrest was extinguished last week by massive nationwide pro-government demonstrations.

US President Donald Trump has openly backed the unrest in multiple twitter messages.

The Trump administration expressed deep concern on Wednesday over reports that Iran has allegedly tortured or killed those prisoners.

"We will not remain silent as the Iranian [government allegedly] represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran's [officials] accountable for any violations," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed in a statement.

While Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has blamed the unrest on the arch foes of the Islamic Republic, namely the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization terrorist group, he has called on the officials to address the legitimate popular demands shouted by demonstrators.

"That we say the enemy has had a hand in recent developments is not an analysis. It is based on [reliable] intelligence and news. But this should not cause us to ignore our weaknesses and problems," the Leader has said.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints