People, Environment

DOE Defends Car Loan Scheme

DOE Defends Car Loan SchemeDOE Defends Car Loan Scheme

The Rouhani government’s seemingly successful but much-criticized car loan scheme has found an unlikely supporter in Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment.

“Given the current financial state of automakers, offering the loan was a sensible thing to do,” Ebtekar said, according to Mehr News Agency.

The new auto loan scheme, introduced by the government two weeks ago in the most recent bid to salvage the inefficient and loss-making domestic auto industry, has drawn concern among health and environment officials, as well as the common people.

The plan, however,  was met with huge public enthusiasm as more than 110,000 gas-guzzling low quality sedans were sold in six days because of the 250-million-rial ($ 8,600) loan per vehicle offered by the central bank at 16% over four years.

Health Minister Dr. Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi castigated the scheme “as thousands of additional cars will now ply the already overcrowded streets in most big cities without paying heed to environmental or air pollution concerns.”

Iran’s streets, especially Tehran, are riddled with old and dilapidated vehicles that at best deserve the scrap yard. These cars, in addition to substandard motorcycles, account for a significant portion of air pollution that kills around 80,000 people every year in Iran.

According to official data, more than 4,400 people die annually in Tehran alone, meaning one person dies every two hours in the Iranian capital due to high pollution levels.

  Strict Standards

“The vehicles that are sold through the new loan scheme comply with strict Euro 4 standards,” Ebtekar was quoted as saying by Moj news agency.

She claimed that “no substandard vehicle is sold via the loan scheme” and was of the opinion that the scheme would help “remove old, polluting vehicles from the streets” as the low-income strata would get rid of the old vehicles.

Every single car produced in Iran since March 2012 has had to comply with Euro-4 standards while every imported vehicle must meet Euro 5 standards, she said.

Ebtekar’s statements are made amid a recent controversy over the quality of Euro 4 gasoline.

In October, Vahid Hosseini, CEO of Tehran Air Quality Control Company, said tests on Euro 4 gasoline sold in Tehran during March 21 – September 22 revealed sulfur levels to be twice the acceptable limit of 50 ppm.

As the foremost environment authority in Iran, Ebtekar’s recent statements on the car loans could well provide her strong opponents in Parliament with more ammunition to attack her and the government.