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Author Topic:   Parliament passes record budget
posted January 18, 2001 09:28     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
TEHRAN, Jan 17 (AFP) - Reformist dominated parliament approved Wednesday the last budget of President Mohammad Khatami's current four-year term in the face of strong criticism from the conservative minority.

During a 15-hour debate stretching over two days, conservatives attacked the finance bill as favouring reformist-controlled bodies to the detriment of those like the state broadcasting media in the hands of conservatives.

After approving the broad outlines of the bill, deputies will now go through the line-by-line details, a process expected to last some 10 days.

The budget for the Iranian year 1380, which begins in March, totals a record 46 billion dollars at the official exchange rate, a 24 percent rise over that of the previous year.

For 56 percent of revenue it relies on oil output, of which 2.2 million barrels a day are expected to be sold abroad. A further 32.5 percent is the tax take, and most of the remainder non-oil exports.

The original draft set the budget at 45 billion dollars, but a parliamentary commission increased the figure before it went to Wednesday's vote.

Among the provisions is one permitting the government to sell some of its petrodollars on the free market, at a budgeted rate of 7,900 rials to the dollar, compared with 3,000 rials at the official rate.

Oil and gas exports are forecast to bring in more than 22 billion dollars, some 10 billion up on the current year, based on an oil price of 16 dollars a barrel.

The government's draft worked on an oil price of 20 dollars, but the parliamentary commission cut this to 16, well below current market rates of around 25 dollars.

Other provisions include more than one billion dollars in subsidies on basic foods, including wheat, rice, cooking oil, meat, butter and cheese.

Inflation and growth rates are estimated at 12 percent and five percent respectively, while the government is authorised to hike its foreign debt from 10 billion dollars to 17.3 billion.

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posted February 12, 2001 10:31     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Expediency Council rejects most Majlis proposals on budget bill

BBC Monitoring Service
Feb 11, 2001

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA

Tehran, 11 February: The Expediency Council (EC) here on Sunday [11 February] rejected five of six proposals by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) on certain sections of next year's (1380) budget bill.

The issue had been referred by the Majlis to EC for final decision after the budget bill was returned by the Guardian Council (GC).

The move taken by the parliament is in accordance with a constitutional provision which allows the Majlis, in case of failure to agree with the Guardian Council (GC) on a subject of legislation for two consecutive
times, to either accept the views of the GC or refer the legislation to the EC for final decision.

The Guardian Council, for the second time on 3 February, objected to six articles of next year's proposed budget bill, including the proposed IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) budget and an allocation of 50bn rials for a fund to support political parties.

Other articles referred to the EC for final decision were an allocation of funds to support social and sports activities of recognized religious minorities in the country, divesting the government [of] the power to have a say in approving the budget of establishments under the direct supervision of the supreme leader, and giving the government the go-ahead to embark on buy-back and similar deals with foreign firms.

The secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Reza'i, told reporters that the EC concluded that the government had done more technical work on five of the disputed issues and accepted the viewpoints of the Guardian
Council on those issues.

Only on that part of the budget bill which gave the government the go-ahead to embark on buy-back and similar deals with foreign firms, the EC sided with Majlis, added Reza'i.

He said the EC held one of its longest meetings on Sunday which was attended by the heads of the three branches of the government.

The Majlis also wanted to cut 220bn rials from the IRIB proposed budget because it estimated it would be able to raise its revenues from commercials from the current level of 180bn rials to 400bn rials during
the calendar year 1380 (March 2001-March 2002).

The Guardian Council rejected the Majlis decision and said that the IRIB should be provided with sufficient funds to run its operations and returned the bill with its objections to parliament with instructions to
approve a "realistic" budget for the IRIB.

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posted February 13, 2001 09:49     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iranian budget approved

The Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore

February 11 2001 18:13GMT

Iran's government budget for the next Iranian year was finally approved on Sunday after weeks of unprecedented wrangling between the reformist-dominated parliament and the conservative Council of Guardians. Analysts said political bickering over spending had overshadowed criticism by both reformists and conservatives of the overall budget as being inflationary and lacking in transparency.

Disputed items of the budget had to be resolved by the Expediency Council, which mediates between parliament and the Council of Guardians, a kind of upper house controlled by the clergy.

The Expediency Council, headed by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, overruled parliament by rejecting an amendment that sought to cut a proposed increase in funds for IRIB, the conservative-controlled
broadcast network. But the reformists did succeed in securing 50bn rials ($6.2m) in funding for political parties, an unprecedented development opposed by conservative clerics whose financial support is assured.

The 450,000bn rial ($56bn) budget, for the new Iranian year starting this March 21, was presented to parliament last November by President Mohammad Khatami. It reflects the cautious approach by a left-wing dominated
administration ahead of presidential elections scheduled for June 8. Overall spending is to rise by nearly 25 per cent, with increases in subsidies for food and fuel set at about 20 per cent.

At the committee level, the budget was criticised by Mohsen Nourbaksh, governor of the Central Bank of Iran, as inflationary. Even the Participation Front, the largest pro-reform party in parliament and headed
by the president's brother, complained it had not been consulted enough. Critics focused on a continued reliance on oil income, an optimistic assumption of future tax revenues and spending of nearly 64 per cent of
the total budget on state-owned enterprises and banks.

A member of the parliamentary energy commission said no auditing had been done on the expenditures of two-thirds of state companies.

The state sector deficit will be made up by borrowing 61,000bn rials ($7.6bn), about half projected to come in the form of foreign loans.

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posted February 14, 2001 10:12     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MP Says Budget Rejection Was Preplanned

TEHRAN, Feb 12 Asia Pulse - Head of Iran's biggest pro-reform caucus, Mohammad-Reza Khatami termed as "pre-planned" the rejection on Sunday by the National Expediency Council [NEC] of most items proposed by the majlis in the annual budget for the next Iranian calendar year 1380 which starts on March 21.
"16 of the total 26 members of the council are affiliated to a specific view which bears enough proof that the result cannot be anything else," he said. Mohammad-Reza, the younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, runs the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF). The NEC, Iran's highest legislative oversight body, on Sunday refused cuts for the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting IRIB), the all-Iran radio and television networks.

The council, headed by former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, intervened in the budget process for the first time since the 1979-Islamic Revolution after unprecedented disputes between reformists and the Guardians' Council, which must rule that all new legislation conforms to Islamic law.

The budget is the first by the pro-reform parliament, which swept to power in elections last spring, and the last in the four-year term f President Mohammed Khatami, who has not yet officially announced whether he will
seek re-election on June 8.

The budget for the Iranian calendar year 1380 which begins on March 21 totals a record US$46 billion at the official exchange rate, a 24 percent rise over that of the previous year.

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posted February 20, 2001 09:52     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran's Guardian Council Gives Final Approval to Annual Budget

TEHRAN, Feb 19 Asia Pulse - Iran's oversight body the Guardian Council announced that it has granted its final approval to the annual budget bill proposed for the next Iranian year starting March 21. It said the budget bill was endorsed by the council, which vets all legislation, after amendments were made to it by the reformist-majority parliament.

The GC has approved the bill after President Mohammad Khatami promised to remove the problems on the budget allocated to the council. It said the bill was neither "un-Islamic" nor "anti-constitutional."

The Guardian Council, a constitutional and Islamic watchdog, had earlier blocked the measure by the government to seek the loans for development projects within the budget, saying paying loan interest amounted to usury
banned under Islam.

Last week, the state Expediency Council, an arbiter between the Majlis and the GC ruled in favor of the former and cleared the way to seek $1.5 billion in foreign loans per year.

Khatami and his allies had campaigned hard to revive the bill, which also includes a proposal to seek $1.5 billion in "buy-back" foreign investment.

Under Iran's controversial buy-back program foreign firms receive crude as compensation and profit in return for investing in projects under a formula that denies them a direct equity stake.

Buy-backs began in the mid-1990s in a bid to help the government skirt constitutional bans on foreign ventures and attract much-needed capital to revamp the ageing energy sector, damaged by the 1980s war ith Iraq and by the ongoing U.S. sanctions.

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