Iran's reformist dominated parliament approved Wednesday the last budget of President Mohammad Khatami's current four-year term in the face of strong criticism from the conservative minority.
During a 15-hour debate stretching over two days, conservatives attacked the finance bill as favoring reformist-controlled bodies to the detriment of those like the state broadcasting media in the hands of conservatives.
After approving the broad outlines of the bill, deputies will now go through the line-by-line details, a process expected to last some 10 days. The budget for the Iranian year 1380, which begins in March, totals a record $46 billion at the official exchange rate, a 24 percent rise over that of the previous year.
For 56 percent of revenue it relies on oil output, of which 2.2 million barrels a day are expected to be sold abroad. A further 32.5 percent is the tax take, and most of the remainder non-oil exports.
The original draft set the budget at $45 billion, but a parliamentary commission increased the figure before it went to Wednesday's vote. Among the provisions is one permitting the government to sell some of its petrodollars on the free market, at a budgeted rate of 7,900 rials to the dollar, compared with 3,000 rials at the official rate.
Oil and gas exports are forecast to bring in more than $22 billion, some $10 billion up on the current year, based on an oil price of $16 a barrel. The government's draft worked on an oil price of $20, but the parliamentary commission cut this to $16, well below current market rates of around $25.
Other provisions include more than one billion dollars in subsidies on basic foods, including wheat, rice, cooking oil, meat, butter and cheese. Inflation and growth rates are estimated at 12 percent and five percent respectively, while the government is authorized to hike its foreign debt from $10 billion to $17.3 billion. — (AFP, Tehran)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )