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Iran’s Regime Is Plundering Workers ‘and Retirees’ Property Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Iran’s Regime Is Plundering Workers 'and Retirees' Property Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Iran: Tehran, “Shasta” Building

The state-run website “Nabzebourse” predicted on April 13, that the shares of the Social Security Investment Company (Shasta) would be listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange on April 15. This is the largest initial public offering in the history of the Tehran Stock Exchange, which was carried out with a 10% supply of Shasta shares.  

Shasta is a holding company, a conglomerate of eight different industrial-financial groups that manages 187 different companies in the sectors of oil, gas, and petrochemicals, medicine, cement and ceramic tiles, and electricity and energy. Shasta also has companies related to banking and insurance, land and sea transport, agriculture, and food. The company also has an unmanaged presence in 100 other industrial, manufacturing and service units. 

Before the offering of shares, Mohammad Shariatmadari, the regime’s Minister of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare, had announced the transfer (ISNA state-run News Agency, April 14, 2020). 

It should be reminded that Shasta is owned by workers and retirees, but its CEO and board of directors are appointed by the Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare. In other words, the real owners do not have any managing role. Shasta is not a government company but is public property.  

Earlier, regime officials in social security had said that the organization had a deficit of about 25,000 billion tomans and about 39,000 billion tomans in bank debt. At the same time, Rouhani’s government owes more than 250,000 billion tomans to this organization.  

But instead of paying off its debt to the Social Security Administration, the government is selling its shares. It seems that the reason for the bankruptcy of some pension funds is the government’s debt to them. In other words, during the two terms of Rouhani’s government and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, they emptied the pockets of workers and retirees. 

Even if Rouhani’s government intends to hand this conglomerate over,  the shares of this organization must be given to the workers and retirees for free. Otherwise, as in many other cases, it will be granted not to an independent private sector, but the regime officials’ relatives inner circle.  

The question is, why should a company owned by workers be re-assigned to a close circle of government officials during the so-called privatization process? 

At a time when income disparities and economic inequalities in society have risen sharply, who can buy Shasta shares? No group other than a group of regime-affiliated looters can own these shares. In other words, workers’ shares are handed over to the regime’s affiliated looters with the deceptive tool of “privatization”. Workers and retirees, who should generally benefit from Shasta, are not only unable to buy stocks, but are unable to meet their basic living standards. 

The privatization of companies in the mullahs’ regime has been going on for years and has always been one of the most controversial economic issues in the country. Many profitable companies have gone bankrupt during this process and this has led to the unemployment of thousands of workers. Dozens of companies and factories have refused to pay workers’ wages after privatization.  

A clear example of this is Haft Tappeh Sugarcane factory in Khuzestan Province and Hepco  Company in ArakFactories that were very active and successful, but went bankrupt after the transfer of their shares. 

Some claim that the government has outsourced only harmful companies. But the reality is something else. Government officials who have access to information and rents have been able to seize the ownership of profitable businesses by using government financial instruments and access to banking resources. 

 In other words, in the process of privatization, nothing came to the common people but went from public ownership to the ownership of managers close to the government. 

Rouhani’s government is deceiving public opinion with false propaganda about privatization. Over the years, the government has ceded only a small portion of the profits of gainful companies so the mullahs could still grasp to its management.  

The regime’s governments, under the pretext of bankruptcy, sell their shares to so-called “individuals”, who are in fact regime officials or their relatives. Therefore, this is not a privatization process it is indeed total deception and plundering of public funds.  These new owners, often take loans from state-owned banks to buy stocks, buy some stocks but have no role in the macro-decision-making process. In other words, the government gives loan under another pretext but returns the money to the treasury. The same thing is repeated in Shasta. After the recent transfer, there has been no change in the decision-making process and its managers. 

Reactions to Shasta’s handover have been mixed with praise from Rouhani and his adviser, Akbar Turkan, and their approval is to justify the looting of public property.  

But it has been criticized by Abbas Akhundi, a minister in the second term of Rafsanjani’s presidency from 1993-1997 and Minister of Roads and Urban Development in Hassan Rouhani’s government in 2013-2018.  

He said: “The world is becoming more institutionalized by institutional traders, moving towards a more multilateral monopoly with greater intensity and a more laborious blow to the weak institution of competition. ‌The allocation of $ 90 billion in the ninth and tenth governments was low, again in this economy affected by corona crisis, under the name of supporting production equivalent to 4 billion dollars of speculative transfer is done. (Eqtesad News state-run website, April 15, 2020.) 

In 2018, during the meeting of the “Strategic Economic Council” of the Iranian regime, which was also attended by Ali Rabieespokesman for Rouhani’s government, the shares of the Welfare Bank (Bank Refah) and part of the shares of Shasta were supposed to be given to retirees and workers. But like many of Rouhani’s false promises, this was never done, so much so that instead of being handed over to the workers, this public capital was handed over to government rent-seekers. 

As a result of the regime’s negligence and criminality in concealing the prevalence of the coronavirus, there is a severe blow that the consequences of this concealment will have on the lives and health of the people and the sick economy of the country. 

This will be manifested in the form of crushing economic pressure on workers, retirees, wage earners, peddlers, and all the deprived sections of society. 

The pressure will not be relieved except by eliminating the cause of this cycle of corruption and looting, that is, the regime of religious dictatorship in Iran and the realization of the violated rights of the people.