People have right to protest, but vandalism is not tolerated, Rouhani says

November 18, 2019

TEHRAN – President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the people have the right to protest, however, vandalism will not be tolerated.

Late on Thursday, the government announced a partial cut in petrol subsidies. The decision went into force on Friday morning. However, some groups of people in certain cities, including Ahwaz, Tehran, Sirjan, Karaj, poured into the streets protesting the move. In some cases the demonstrations turned violent as hooligans took the opportunity to pillage stores, set government offices on fire and destroy public and private property.

According to the new decision, petrol is sold at two prices: 60 liters per month for every car owner with a price of 1500 (35 cents) tomans. Any amount beyond that figure is sold at 3000 tomans (70 cents).

The calculation is based on official rate of 4200 tomans per dollar.
 
The government has announced that all the revenues from increasing petrol prices will be paid in form of cash to the 60 million people, which includes 18 million households. 

The government has also taken some compensatory measures by allocating more petrol to taxis and pickups with a price of 1500 tomans. 

Before the current decision, petrol was sold at 1000 tomans per liter.

Speaking at the cabinet, Rouhani said, “Protest is different from riot. Protest is the people’s right and they can protest. The government accepts even harsh criticism. However, we should not allow insecurity in the society.” 

He added that the government will allow no one to cause insecurity or attack police stations and the offices of the national TV.

Rouhani said that decision to ration gasoline and increase petrol prices was taken in line with helping the lower-income and middle classes of the society.

“We only had three ways [to benefit the lower-income people]. We should have increased taxes, export more oil or decrease subsidies,” he said.

“Our oil sales is facing limitations, and even if had not faced any limitations, it would not have been appropriate to use oil money for this purpose… We also cannot raise taxes too much, because in the current economic situation of the society taxes need to be balanced,” he stated.

He added, “It has been for several months that experts have been discussing how to support the low-income people. In this administration, we have made efforts to increase production of petrol.”

“We used to spend billions of dollars to import petrol. It was in addition to certain problems in buying and importing petrol,” he added.

“Some households may not have a car while some others may have 1-3 cars. Therefore, people’s petrol consumption is not the same,” he explained.

The president continued, “We had to create a kind of balance, in addition to the fact that because the low price of petrol and other energy resources in the country, a huge amount is being smuggled out of the country…, and the smugglers gain the main benefit”.

“In our calculations, we came to the point that the needs of 60 million people in our society are more than the remaining 22-23 million people. Therefore, it is imperative to help them, who account for 18 million households, by monthly aid,” he said.

The current Iranian population is about 83 million.

Rouhani said the decision to increase petrol price was taken after expert talks. 

“We worked with economists in the government and came to the conclusion that the issue of petrol requires consultation with all bodies and make a decision. We held several meetings with heads of the other two branches of government and we reached a conclusion and sent it to the Leader,” he stated.

He added, “We believed that this money has to be returned to people and those who have lower income. Therefore, we were discussing whether a portion of the petrol money should be returned to the treasury and give the rest to the people, or give it all to the people.”

The government decided on Friday to cut petrol subsidies to fund support for the poor. 

NA/PA


 

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