An event on Iran’s privatization plan in Tehran

Iran Politicians Warn About Corruption In Shady Privatization Plan

Sunday, 09/17/2023

Iranian politicians have revealed further corruption among individuals involved in Iran’s shady privatization policy, which is widely criticized by the media.

Critics see a hasty plan to sell off government properties and companies as a way of "plundering Iran’s resources in the course of liquidating the country’s national assets."

Conservative news website Alef has quoted Ahmad Tavakkoli, the head of the Iranian NGO, Transparency and Justice Monitor, as saying in a letter to lawmakers, the heads of the three powers of the government and the privatization board that the plan "should be totally rejected."

The media reported in January that Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, Roads Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, and four other officials will form the Privatization Board. Reports at the time said that an order issued by the heads of the three powers of the government bars critics of disclosing details of transactions and suspends for two years all legislations that might prevent these transactions. 

Former lawmaker Ahmad Tavakkoli

The members of the Privatization Board have asked for immunity against all criticism and possible legal prosecution. 

The scheme is reminiscent of previous privatization efforts that led to huge corruption cases, when people bought public assets at a fraction of their market value often simply to sell valuable lands or borrow large sums from banks against the assets.

Tavakkoli, who is also a member of Iran's Expediency Council, a non-elected body whose members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, also said that Khamenei has revoked his endorsement of the privatization plan. Tavakkoli is an established conservative politician, who belongs to the ‘principlist’ camp, which has lately been overshadowed by ultraconservatives who control the parliament and President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.

While the plan is presented as an effort to make the economy more efficient and raise money for the cash-strapped government, critics believe there are powerful people involved whose only interest is to buy valuable lands at low pieces.

Criticizing Raisi’s privatization and other economic plans administration, Tavakkoli said the economic situation is so bad that "If an average Iranian worker saves one third of his monthly income to buy a house, it will take him 135 years to be able to afford buying one." He further warned that if the government undertakes to implement the shady privatization plan, this will be an end to many Iranians' hope to own a house."

Stressing that this is the third letter he is writing about privatization, Tavakkoli further warned that this plan will entail heavy losses and other consequences for the Islamic Republic as it extensively violates the rights of the nation. 

Echoing previous warnings by other politicians and commentators, Tavakkoli argued that the plan will create new opportunities for corrupt individuals. He further accused the seven high-ranking members of the privatization board of planning to take advantage of their immunity before the law to spread financial corruption. 

Meanwhile, former deputy culture minister Hossein Entezami in a tweet on Friday called Tavakkoli's letter "shocking." He added that "the seven members of the Privatization Board and their colleagues who enjoy permanent immunity from prosecution, have [so far] received 54 trillion rials ($108 million) for working on the board." He added: "I wish Vice President Mohammad Mokhber and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf will cease to insist on implementing the privatization plan."

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