To defend a covert agreement to procure traffic equipment from China, the Tehran Municipality has erected banners and billboards across the capital, which critics argue "denigrate" domestic producers.

“Why Did We Import?” the banners and billboards in the streets and metro stations read in large letters and give a list of reasons for the purchase of electric buses, taxis and surveillance equipment from China. The list includes reduction of gasoline use, better air quality and the capital’s urgent and vital need for a new public transport fleet.

They also imply that domestically produced counterparts are inferior to the Chinese-made products, citing higher production costs and labeling domestic automakers—many of which, like Iran Khodro, are primarily owned by government-affiliated entities—as "tortoises" in terms of production speed.

The municipality has withheld the details of the controversial agreement not only from the public but also from city councilors. The agreement was signed by ultra-hardline Mayor Alireza Zakani during a visit to China in January.

If the foreign policy decisionmakers are using the agreement as a solution to repatriation of Iran's money from illicit oil sales to Chinese refineries, it would be more acceptable to tell the truth to Iranian producers, workers, and ordinary people, the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) argued in an editorial entitled “Self-Humiliation of Municipality’s Billboards Against Iranian Production and Workers”.

The money referred to by ILNA, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ House (Khaneh-ye Kargar), has accrued in Chinese banks over the past few years and cannot be accessed due to international banking sanctions that came into effect after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The Workers’ House, which is Iran's largest government-endorsed and legal workers’ union, has reformist leanings like the Islamic Labor Party to which it is affiliated.

“But the automaking industry and labor relations analysts believe that the arguments and attitude [of municipality officials] is some sort of deprecation of domestic production,” the editorial added.

“Denigration of domestic production … by a public institution close to the government that voices revolutionary slogans, is strange for many and has raised the question of how much the conditions of the Iranian workforce and the fruits of their labor matters to various officials,” ILNA wrote.

The editorial also highlighted what it perceived as disrespect for the Iranian workforce and domestic production, particularly during years emphasized by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for their significance in promoting domestic manufacturing.

Khamenei has established a tradition of giving names to each Iranian calendar year in his New Year speeches (usually March 21). This year it was “Surge in production through people's participation”. He also dubbed the past two years as years of "Inflation Control, and Growth in Production” and “Production: Knowledge-Based Job-Creation”.

Speaking to ILNA, an official of the Iranian Auto Parts Producers’ Association, Bahram Shahriyari, refuted the claims of inefficiency of domestic producers and insisted that bad government management, which has monopolized the industry, are to blame for the problems of domestic automakers. He also claimed that big fluctuations in exchange rates and other issues such as higher taxes levied on producers have run car manufacturers and auto parts makers to the ground.

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