Iran president ends monthly cash payment to 90 percent of citizens
TEHRAN — In a bid to cut spending, the Iranian government has ended a cash assistance program and introduced a celebrity-driven campaign to convince millions of Iranians that they do not need the help.
It's unlikely to be a popular message. As of last month, more than 90 percent of Iranians were receiving monthly direct deposits from the government of about $15 — a sum that many, though certainly not all, depended on to buy staples whose prices have soared in recent years.
The payments began in 2010 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of a program to reduce state subsidies on utilities and food. But they ended up costing the government billions of dollars and, many economists say, contributing to Iran's skyrocketing inflation rate.
On Friday, the government of President Hassan Rouhani sent the final payment to Iranians' bank accounts, and it is taking applications to determine how many people really need the help.
To keep that number as low as possible, the government is airing radio and television ads in which professional soccer players and actors say they will not enroll. Most cabinet ministers have urged their staffs not to sign up, and one of the country's highest-ranking Shiite clerics issued a fatwa Thursday deeming the collection of payments by those who are not poor “religiously problematic.”
Deciding who truly needs the help — and slimming such a large assistance program in general — will be a key test for Rouhani, who was elected in June largely based on his promise of a brighter economic future for all Iranians. The government has not said what the cutoffs for eligibility will be or when the payments will resume.
Ahmadinejad's government originally intended to deliver the deposits only to the needy. But analysts say a combination of limited income data and political turmoil after Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 election led him to view the aid as an opportunity to placate a restless society.
The program is now generally accepted as an important first step to wean the public off of overly subsidized utilities, but at a very high cost.
The head of the government agency that oversees the deposits said this week that in the 38 months since the program began, the equivalent of more than $50 billion had been paid to Iranian bank accounts.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- With help from U.S.-led airstrikes, Kurds retake strategic border town
- Venezuela’s Maduro says airlines wage ‘economic war’
- Sides reach out to undecided in Hong Kong
- Virus traced to mosquitoes in Latin America causes severe joint pain
- Protesters in Hong Kong stand firm in battle to stop encroaching rule by China
- U.S. identifies ISIS beheader
- Departing Karzai slaps U.S. 1 last time
- China faces tricky balance in Hong Kong’s protests
- Netanyahu rebuts claim of genocide, accuses Iran
- Israel military shoots down Syrian aircraft
- Libya, saying security too tenuous, seeks removal of chemical stockpike