Gov't Empowers ICHHTO Sectors

The new directives will hopefully help generate jobs in the tourism and handicraft sectors and properly preserve historical sites
ICHHTO sectors are receiving special attention by the government.ICHHTO sectors are receiving special attention by the government.

The government has recently approved four directives to help develop the tourism and handicraft sectors for supporting production, generating jobs and better protecting historical sites.  

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Ali Asghar Mounesan, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, elaborated on the four directives, ISNA reported.

  Tourism Qualified for Loans

As part of the first directive, the tourism sector, along with industrial and agricultural sectors, will be entitled to apply for funds from the 18-trillion-rial ($4-billion) budget earmarked to support production and employment.

The budget was envisioned in 2016 for which a network named "Behinyab" was launched to register project applications. Earlier, only industrial and agricultural projects were qualified for registration.

"But after two years of persistence and with the green light from the industries minister, tourism projects were also qualified to register and receive a share of the budget," Mounesan said.

 He explained that once they join the network, investors neither need to go to a state office in Tehran nor make a bank deposit.

"Besides those who have already received loans from other sources will be able to apply for a loan to complete their projects or fund their working capital deficit," he said.

According to Saeid Ohadi, the deputy for investment at ICHHTO, currently 750 tourism projects across the country have progressed by over 60% but remain incomplete due to lack of funds.

"By getting such loans, these projects can become operational within a year and a half, and generate jobs for at least 30,000 people," he said.

  Preservation of Historical Sites  

The second directive is aimed at providing better protection for historical buildings and urban textures.

The law allows municipalities to cooperate with ICHHTO in identifying cultural heritage sites located inside or on the outskirts of cities to gain ownership, restore and capitalize on them within the framework of ICHHTO regulations.

"There are too many historical sites that ICHHTO's budget alone will not suffice to preserve them all," he said, adding that the new rule will provide assistance for improving their protection.

Mayors are required to gain the approval of ICHHTO before embarking on a project to purchase and restore a heritage site.

ICHHTO will give priority to municipalities when ceding heritage buildings to the private sector.

The directive also tasks city councils with setting aside a certain amount of the urban budget for the purpose.

However, municipalities have failed to protect heritage sites and raised the concerns of activists.  

"A statute formulated in cooperation with the Interior Ministry will guarantee their compliance with heritage regulations," Mounesan said.  

  Rural and Youth Employment

Based on the next directive, tourism and handicraft sectors will receive nearly 2.4 trillion rials ($558 million) from the 12-trillion-rial ($2.7 billion) fund earmarked to extend low-interest loans for the development of rural jobs.Mounesan hoped that the plan will provide more employment opportunities for rural populations in the next Iranian year (starting March 21).

The budget bill approved in the current Iranian year (started March 21, 2017) has allowed the Plan and Budget Organization to offer up to 8 trillion rials ($186 million) to support production and employment with priority given to the youth and university graduates.

Tourism is also included among sectors eligible to receive loans from this budget.

According to the ICHHTO chief, the fund will be given to small businesses to complete their projects.

Mounesan noted that the first chapter of the Tourism Strategic Document has been presented to the Plan and Budget Organization, and is now undergoing a review.

"We are making efforts to include handicrafts and cultural heritage in the document as well, because we believe that the three sectors are not detached from each other," he said.

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