When Iran’s economic woes make the news, the focus is often on sanctions – how sanctions have “crippled” Iran’s economy, and how their removal is a key to improving growth. In these reports, less emphasis is usually placed on Iran’s own questionable expenditures – including its sponsorship of global terror, recently confirmed by the US State Department to be the biggest in the world – or its endemic corruption.
There is widespread acceptance – including in Iran – of the fact that Iran’s economy needs a facelift. But what if the Islamic republic has more than one economy? What if its leaders, while calling for a self-sufficient “resistance economy,” are running a parallel economy of their own, paying “astronomical” salaries to heads of state-owned companies?
The extent of a corruption scandal recently exposed in the Iranian press, as well as in The Los Angeles Times, would suggest that some Iranians are doing just fine in the current state of its economy – taking home enormous sums as ordinary Iranians struggle under the weight of both international sanctions, a consequence of the Iranian regime’s actions, and said regime’s corruption, even under the “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani.
According to the reports, based on pay stubs acquired by Iranian news outlets, managers and executives at Iranian state-run companies are taking home “nearly 100 times the wage of the lowest-paid government employees.” Such a disparity is illegal in Iran – where “egalitarianism was a mantra” of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
In its article on the scandal, the LA Times suggested that the recent spate of reports on income inequality in the Iranian press reflects attempts by hardliners to undermine Rouhani ahead of his campaign for a second term next year. The Times emphasized, however, that the reports reveal that inequality is endemic to the Iranian regime as a whole, and that “the Islamic Revolution’s promises of economic equality were hollow.”
Over at oil-centric media outlet OilPrice, Mansour Kashfi put it somewhat more bluntly, writing that the distinction between moderates and hardliners in Iran is but “political subterfuge used […] to perpetuate the inherent corruption” of Iran’s “governing system.” According to Kashfi, it is this very corruption – in which both factions are complicit – which will “not only continue to oppress the Iranian people,” but also preclude business with the West. Once again, it emerges that the greatest obstacle to Iran’s sanctions relief is the Iranian regime itself.