Revelations about "astronomical" salaries for some state company managers amid high inflation and rising poverty in Iran have led to calls for transparency.
Investigative reports in the media and posts on social media have shown what Iranian’s call “astronomical salaries” that politically appointed managers earn in loss-making state industries.
It is still not known if these are genuine investigative reports or if journalists and social media influencers have been tipped by rival factions and clans within the Iranian government.
On November 23, the IRGC-linked daily newspaper Javan ran a front-page report that said monthly salaries higher than 2.15 billion rials paid to some government managers is an outcome of lack of transparency in government operations. The amount mentioned would equal roughly to $51,000 based on the government’s preferential exchange rate and $9,000 based on the free market rate. But even at the lower dollar equivalency, it is an astronomical amount by Iran’s standards.
Ordinary wage earners make about $100 a month and office workers and teachers less than $200.
Meanwhile in a separate story, Javan quoted Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as saying that "first the parliament and then the rest of government institutions in Iran are going to make their operations transparent." The Iranian Parliament (Majles) has been under immense pressure from the media and the public to reveal the voting record of lawmakers. However, hardline clerics at the Majles have so far strongly resisted transparency and argue that "enemies" might benefit from the information.
Scores of social media accounts on Telegram and Twitter have revealed high salaries are being paid to some government managers. The proreform Telegram channel @Maktubat, which has over 24,000 subscribers, on November 22 posted the payslip of one of the managers of the government-owned Amir Kabir Petrochemical Plant, showing that was receiving 2.15 billion rials per month. The channel said this was equal to an ordinary government workers’ wage for four years.
Meanwhile, hardline commentator Hassan Rahimpour Azqadi posted three payslips from the same company on his Twitter account and showed the company's CEO received 2.15 billion rials, its HR Chief received 1.25 billion and the company's Security Chief received 840 million rials per month.
In another post, hardline journalist Mehdi Khalili published some more documents comparing salaries and cost of living in Iran and addressed President Ebrahim Raisi saying, "Look at the payslips and compare them with what teachers and other workers living under the poverty line earn. Where are you Mr. Raisi. You have been in office as Iran's President for more than 100 days and still, there is such an injustice done your employees."
In an elaborate attempt to distance Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from government mismanagement and financial corruption, Javan has concluded in its report that after years of complaints by the people and warnings by the Supreme Leader, apparently the only solution for financial corruption appears to be transparency. Meanwhile, the daily warned that false transparency will only make matters worse.
User comments about the matter on social media were interesting particularly on Telegram where they feel safer and at times come up with radical comments. One Telegram user responded to the vast difference between income of government employees, "This is no longer a class difference. This shows a wide gap between classes." Another user said, "Soon we will be seeing a revolt by the poor."
On Twitter, one user who responded to Azqadi's call for an explanation by the President, wrote: "They will not offer any explanations, but you are going to see a lot of justifications." And another user reminded that the company security chief who receives 840 million rials per month will turn a blind eye to whatever corruption that takes place in the company.