The Iranian regime’s budget bill for 2023-2024, provided by its President Ebrahim Raisi to the parliament, is another solid indication of the theocracy’s worsening bankruptcy.
Raisi had to present the so-called “Seventh Development Plan” before handing over the budget bill to the parliament, but he did not. These plans are revealed with lots of fanfare but, in practice, serve as smokescreens for the regime’s widening scale of dismal economic failures.
“Many of the country’s problems do not need consecutive plans, and they need actions by the ruling system. The government fails to pay its employees salaries … So it literally does not give a cent to spend on development plans,” the state-run Sharq daily quipped on January 7.
Raisi’s refusal to present the development plan has caused a lot of stir in the regime’s parliament. The handpicked deputies have refused to assess the budget bill until they receive the “development plan.”
Bereft of economic ideas or convincing rationale for his government’s budget bill, Raisi pathetically urged MPs to ratify “the best budget bill yet” while vowing to “quickly submit the seventh development plan.”
In his litany of lies in defense of his budget plan, Raisi claimed that the bill is “centered on justice.” Unsurprisingly, however, a closer look at this bill reveals that it is rather centered on deceit and duplicity, promising more economic pain and misery for average Iranians.
If ratified, the budget bill will increase “wages by an average of 20%” and “pensions by an average of 10%.” These figures are woefully behind the staggering inflation rate in Iran. Even if we consider the regime’s engineered figure of a 40% inflation rate (which is extremely conservative), the purchasing power of the employees and retirees is set to decrease by at least 24 and 34 percent, respectively.
According to this bill, the minimum wage will be roughly 70 million rials or $171 per month (based on the current market exchange rate). Meanwhile, the regime’s Ministry of Labor has set the poverty line at roughly 150 million rials, or $341 per month.
Since the regime cannot fully fund its massive oppressive machinery, it has increased taxes by 66%, generating an additional $21 billion in state income. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s vast financial institutions (holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets) are tax-exempt. And they have been receiving the lion’s share of the government’s budgets.
In democratic countries, taxes serve as the primary financing mechanism for improving public services. But in Iran, the dictatorship uses taxes to fund its illicit and inhumane activities, such as shoring up its armed forces with the intention of suppressing the citizenry domestically or exporting religious fundamentalism and terrorism abroad.
As the Iranian people are forced to shoulder a significant increase in taxes amid the country’s economic crunch, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) will enjoy a higher income sourced from the state budget to fund their destabilizing actions in the region as well as their suppression of the ongoing nationwide uprising.
Raisi’s budget bill for the next fiscal year beginning on March 2023, features a whopping 131% increase for the IRGC, from roughly $1.24 billion to about $2.89 billion. This official budget is in addition to the IRGC’s “unofficial” income streams since the terrorist organization dominates the country’s economy.
The Iranian economy is largely oil-dependent. Both the current theocracy and the former Shah’s dictatorship have ruined the country’s ability to diversify its economy. So, Tehran’s budget will certainly be in the red, as the oil market fluctuates a year after the Covid-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine. Additionally, state corruption and international sanctions will continue to aggravate the regime’s deficit.
Raisi claimed on Monday that his government wouldn’t face a budget deficit, adding, “We will not borrow any money from the central bank.” Meanwhile, on January 8, the state-run Etemad daily quoted MP Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi acknowledging that Raisi’s budget bill will trigger a huge shortfall of roughly $9.7 billion. Some state-run media have pegged the potential deficit at $11.4 billion.
All this exposes the regime’s bankrupt economy and the inability to sustain its oppression and terrorism machinery. As the nationwide uprising persists despite the mullahs’ attempts to quash it, the ruling theocracy’s strategic reserves are drying up quickly, accelerating its certain demise.