November 29, 2021
Both far-right and far-left politicians in Iran are proposing new cash handouts to poverty-stricken citizens amid skyrocketing food prices many cannot afford.
Hardline politician Saeed Jalili who once led Iran’s nuclear negotiators under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a far-right politician entertaining the idea. He was the ultraconservative Paydari Party’s candidate for Presidency in 2013, set up workgroups within the frameworks of a shadow government when he lost the presidential election to former President Hassan Rouhani.
Although Rouhani never paid any attention to what Jalili and his hardline faction were up to, Jalili continued his work throughout the eight years of Rouhani’s presidency and some Iranian media maintain that what President Ebrahim Raisi presented as his plans were the research papers compiled by Jalili’s shadow government.
According to lawmaker Ali Khezrian, a member of the parliament presidium, Jalili has been recently holding meetings with members of the Iranian parliament discussing issues including policymaking and combating financial corruption.
Meanwhile, IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim also reported that at one of those meetings, Jalili suggested that with lack of financial resources, the Raisi administration should reclaim foreign currencies put at the disposal of businesses at the preferential rate of 42,000 rials per dollar if those businesses have violated regulations. He also suggested that the foreign currency taken back in this way should be divided among the people.
The cheap dollars for businesses importing food and medicine amid US sanctions is meant to be a subsidy, but it has not helped to keep prices low. There are serious allegations that some individuals and companies have received the cheap currency and imported luxury goods.
One of the ideas put forward by Jalili is “the ideal food basket for Iranians,” which is another name for subsidizing foodstuff for low-income Iranians. The idea includes using cell phones and smart cards and linking them with a cash subsidy outlet that would channel funds directly to low-income individuals to buy food.
Food prices have soared by more than 60 percent compared to last year and have left at least one-third of the population struggling to have enough basic food. Meat, fruit and dairy consumption has declined as millions of people cannot afford the high prices.
Jalili’s idea of helping the financially hard-hit low-income Iranians is very similar to the ideas of Behzad Nabavi, a far-left politician who heads the umbrella organization of Iran’s reform parties.
When Nabavi first introduced the idea, he said he is not shy about returning to the coupon system he had introduced for essential commodities during the eight-year-long war with Iraq in the 1980s. He believes it is essential to provide the key commodities at low cost for the less privileged people. When he first introduced the coupons in the 1980s, Iran’s conservatives accused him of being a communist. He says, he does not mind if the same label is used to characterize him once again.