- Iran parades reenactment of captured U.S. sailors
- Hardliners Violate Law to Keep Assembly of Experts Loyal to Khamenei
- New App that Detects Morality Police is Instant Hit in Iran
- Court Of Appeal Tried Hossein Rafie Without His Own Presence
- Asadullah Asadi Arrested In Tabriz
- 4 Sunni Prisoners Transferred To Urmia Prison
- The latest in nuclear cheating, from Iran to North Korea
- American Judge Challenges Iran Prisoner Deal
- Key senators look to slap new sanctions on country
- Iran: $100b. in assets 'fully released' under nuclear deal
- Officials Say France Wants More Iran Sanctions
- GOP, Dems push Obama on Iran sanctions
- Almost naked Femen protests during Iran president visit
- Iranian actress attacked in Kashan on way to screening
- Hila Sedighi Arrested at Airport in Tehran, Latest in String of Arrests
- Iran impounds tens of thousands of cars for women’s mal-veiling
- Women Participating in Historical Saudi Elections
- 70% Of Iran's Science And Engineering Students Are Women
- Hamas delegation in Iran to mark 1979 Islamic Revolution
- Iranian official: US is subordinate to Iran in Middle East
- Iran to Receive Russian S-300 Missile System in Coming Months
- Senior Hamas official slams Iran
- Iran test-fires torpedoes, missiles during naval drill
- Iran drone over U.S. ship
Monday 10 February 2014
A SCHEME to help Iran’s poorest has embarrassed President Hassan Rohani. On February 2nd, the government began distributing long-promised food packages to help struggling Iranians. But bad planning caused it to go wrong, triggering a local outcry and denting the president's popularity.
First, there was confusion over who would receive aid. Initially, the government announced that the food packages of rice, chicken, eggs, oil and cheese, worth 800,000 rial ($32), would be offered to up to 17m citizens, including workers, the retired, married students and clergymen.
But a day before the distribution started, the government declared that only citizens earning less than 5m rial ($200) per month would qualify. Then, in an echo of the glitches that plagued Obama’s healthcare scheme, the websites for people to check their eligibility didn't work.
All over Tehran, the capital, and in cities across the country, Iranians queued for hours in sub-zero temperatures, only to be told they did not qualify for help. Local media published photos of people fighting over food, and, rather sensationally, compared the situation to North Korea. State media reported that two people had died from the cold.
Until now, the Iranian government has maintained popularity at home, having delivered on its promise to break the international deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program. But this blunder has hurt the poorest Iranians, who have yet to feel any relief from the past years’ economic woes, which are partly caused by Western sanctions. Local economists reckon inflation is as high as 100% in rural areas.
The spectacle has publicly embarrassed the government in the eyes of the middle and upper class too. Many took to social media to complain that it was undignified to see Iranians line up to prove their poverty to the authorities. Hamid Rasaei, an MP, called the food aid a "beggar-raising method". Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, a prominent conservative, demanded that the government make speedy changes to the method of distribution. Uncharacteristically for an Iranian president, Mr Rohani apologised in a televised address.
Criticism came for other reasons, too. Some economists questioned whether the Iranian government can afford to be so generous. Qasem Jafari, a parliamentarian, reckons food aid has added further to Iran’s already soaring budget deficit, which is expected to hit 500 trillion rials ($20 billion) in the coming year. But it is difficult to dismantle the subsidies. The former administration removed them from basic goods and services, but replaced them with monthly cash payments.