Iran's parliament has passed the government’s 455-trillion rial ($57 billion) budget outline, which is 25 percent larger than the one introduced in 2000. It also assumes a $7.5 billion surplus at the end of current the Iranian year, which ends March 20.
President Mohammed Khatami is expected to get the detailed budget comfortably through the parliament next week, because he enjoys a safe majority. However, when it then comes before the Guardian Council, a body of 12 clerics who check that new laws comply with Islamic principles, its fate is less certain.
A key feature of the budget is a plan to create new jobs — 685,000 in all. An amount of 4.7 trillion rials is allocated for job creation, almost twice the 2.7 trillion rials spent during 2000. Unemployment in Iran at present is running between12 and 16 percent.
But, as always, the Iranian government is handcuffed by forced expenditures. More than half the budget will be accounted for by subsidies to state-owned industries and other non-profit making institutions.
One reason that commentators believe will block the budget is that apparently Khatami has decided to financially attack those bodies, which are opposed to his policies of reform. The Guardian Council itself sees its allocation cut by 40 percent to 12 billion rials. State-owned television and radio stations that are conservative-controlled have seen their allocation reduced by 80 billion rials.
Khatami plans to reduce dependency on oil revues from 52.1 percent of state revenues to 50.6 percent. Growth is forecast at five percent during 2001, compared to a less than three percent annual rate during 1998, 1999 and 2000. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )