TEHRAN 23 Sept. (IPS) Iran's conservative-dominated Majles, or parliament dealt the government of powerless Mohammad Khatami a major blow by approving, with a small majority, a bill that imposes on the government serious strings when it signs major deals with foreign firms.
A visibly angry and annoyed President immediately reacted, describing the measure as “unprecedented, a first in the history of the Islamic republic, paralysing the government, preventing progress of the society and eventually in contradiction of the Constitution, meaning the interference of the Legislative in the affairs of the Executive”.
Not only the bill, approved by 108 votes out of the 212 lawmakers present against 79 abstention, would prevent the government from signing deals with foreign firms without prior approval of the Majles, but it also would apply to any contracts signed from the beginning of the current Iranian year on March 20 and in which a foreign company has more than a 49-percent stake.
The bill, approved by 108 votes out of the 212 lawmakers present against 79 abstention, would prevent the government from signing deals with foreign firms without prior approval of the Majles
As approved, the bill singles out contracts passed earlier this year with Turkey's Turkcell telephone company to provide Iran with a second mobile phone oprator in the one hand and the Austrian-Turkish Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV) for handling all services at the new Emam Khomeini International Airport.
The 500 million US Dollars airport was shut down to traffic by the Armed Forces hours after its official inauguration, arguing that the contract endangered the Islamic republic's security because the operators also had business dealings with Israel.
Both the embattled Khatami and the government spokesman, Mr. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh warned that the bill would paralyse the government's power to pursue economic activities with foreign countries, but stressed that the government would accept parliament's decision.
"The Majles has the right to investigate, question ministers and place conditions for the government, but that a president who represents the whole of the people and his ministers are approved by people’s representatives and at the same time faces the whole world has no credit and unable to deal with the world, that means the paralysing the government and international disdain in investing in Iran”, Khatami told journalists, adding, "This will discourage foreigners from investing in Iran. This will cost the country billions of dollars".
The Majles took the decision just one week before Khatami’s scheduled official visit to Turkey, where contracts with Turkcell, signed in February, was to bring the government 7.5 billion US Dollars over 15 years, economists said.
"The military fraction of the Majles wants to push the country into isolation", said a leading Iranian analyst, adding that the bill would certainly limit further the already small amount of foreign investments in Iran, where the economy, which grew by 6.7 per cent in 2003, is heavily dependent on oil and gas, responsible for around 80 percent of exports.
Economists say Iran’s economy is probably one of the world’s most heavily centralised and government-controlled
Foreign investment is limited both by a high degree of state control and by economic sanctions introduced by the US after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and strengthened after the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.
Economists say Iran’s economy is probably one of the world’s most heavily centralised and government-controlled.
Asked if he hoped that the Council of the Guardians that must approve all bills passed by the Majles before becoming law reject the measure, Mr. Khatami said if not, the bill would become law “and then its negative effect would concern the whole of the nation”. ENDS MAJLES CURB GOVERNMENT 23903