Tehran, 4 Jul. (IPS) In a move that surprised most Iranian and foreign experts, the Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i ordered the government of fundamentalist, anti-western Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezjad to cede 80 percent of the shares of major state-owned enterprises to the private sector, the cooperatives and the people.
“The Supreme Leader said in his executive order that ceding 80 percent of the shares of large companies will serve to bring about economic development, social justice and elimination of poverty”, the official news agency IRNA reported.
“The move is clearly aimed at preventing and stopping excesses by Ahmadi Nezhad’s Government”, the independent online newspaper “Rouz” said on Monday, quoting un-identified “economic experts”.
Ceding 80 percent of the shares of large companies will serve to bring about economic development, social justice and elimination of poverty.
According to the leader’s “executive order”, issued on 2 July 2006, downstream oil and gas sectors except for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the state companies involved in explorations and production of crude oil and gas, all the banks except for Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Bank Melli (National) of Iran (BMI), Sepah Bank of Iran, Bank of Industry and Mines, Bank of Agriculture, Housing Bank (Bank Maskan) and the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI); all insurance companies except of the Central Insurance of Iran and Insurance of Iran; all airlines companies except for Civil Aviation Organization as well as Ports and Shipping Organization and the industries affiliated to national defense and security sectors “as specified by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces”, would be handed over to the private sector.
Share prices would be determined by the Stock Exchange and five percent of the shares can be ceded to workers and staff of the companies on installment.
"By putting into practice the action plan, the government's role will undergo a shift from direct involvement in ownership and running the large companies to supervisory and guidance of different sectors of the economy to meet the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) gradually", IRNA quoted Mr. Khameneh’i as having said in his executive order, suggested by the Assembly for Discerning the Interests of the State (ADIS, or the Expediency Council) chaired by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
"In the cut throat battle at the highest levels of the Iranian clerical leadership between the so-called pragmatists and the ultras, it seems that the moderates are gaining the upper hand", one political analyst said.
Ayatollah Khameneh’i said that the privatization process envisaged in his guidelines will “help reinforce the private sector and cooperatives in national economy and support them to enter into competition in the international markets”, IRNA said, adding that the Supreme Leader forwarded the action plan to the heads of three branches of government: Legislative, Executive and Judiciary and to the Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
What surprised many economists and political analysts is that Mr. Khameneh’i is generally regarded as an adept of third world socialistic, centralized economy policy opposing Western liberalism.
His decision to privatize eighty percent of the industries and companies owned by the State comes three days after the creation of a new foreign policy formulating centre chaired by Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the reformist Foreign Affairs minister of the former moderate president Mohammad Khatami.
Considering that there are already a profusion of such centres, considering also the fact that all major foreign and domestic decisions are taken at the leader’s office and on his decisions, the addition of the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations is regarded as a parapet against Ahmadi Nezhad, some political analysts suggested.
The move is clearly aimed at preventing and stopping excesses by Ahmadi Nezhad’s Government.
Notwithstanding the importance of the measure, it will lead to a replica of what happened in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and the start of large scale privatizations, meaning that the new Iranian oligarchs and nouveaux riches, all members or friends of the families of senior ayatollahs would grab the juiciest pieces”, commented Behrouz Karamat, an Iranian economist. ENDS PRIVATISATION 4706