“Iran Curtails Cash Payments to Millions”
The Washington Post, April 12, 2014, p.A12
“In a bid to cut spending, the Iranian government has ended a massive cash assistance program and launched 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 were launched 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.'”
Quickie analysis: The Iranian government must be serious about this one: it’s rolling out the clerics and soccer stars.