Iranian Voices: Subsidy Cuts
19 Dec 2010 23:46
Video: Ayatollah Khomeini's speech, with English subtitles, promising Iranians free water, electricity, bus service, and other services, over scene of Tehran street on Saturday night with cars in long lines for gasoline.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the long-anticipated subsidy reductions in a live television interview on Saturday night, calling the reform "a great victory for Iran." Policy makers have described the program as a "rationalization" or "targetization" of Iran's vast and inefficient subsidies system, but some analysts fear it could increase living costs for millions of middle- and low-income households. -- NYT
Picked up, overheard, here and there in Tehran:
"They used to screw us [over] in a non-targeted way now they want to start screwing us [over] in a targeted way."
--Cab Driver, 26, Sadeghiyeh Square
"Ahmadinejad is a national hero. He is the man who will lay the foundations for a new Iran. Everything he says is word for word our grievances. Why should the people in north Tehran live so well while all of us are being crushed by the hardships of life?"
--Cab passenger, 56, Zartosht Street
* In his televised interview, Ahmadinejad demonized north Tehranis, saying that they use more gas than other parts of Iran combined.
"Professor Haj Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Hidden Imam's money is in your hands -- please don't mix it with your other assets because the Imam might want his money back."
--Anonymous comment on Persian website
* Ahmadinejad asked Iranians not to put the money they receive as subsidy compensation in this same place they keep other money. He said the sum distributed by the government is money from the Hidden Imam's coffers and therefore sacred; it should not be mixed with money that might have been obtained through 'questionable means.'
"Watermelons are the same price as subsidized fuel and airplane fuel But light fuel is more expensive than airplane fuel...now that's what I call a divine comedy!"
--Art Student, 23, Velenjak
* Yalda watermelons were priced at IRR 4000 ($ 0.40) a kilo. Yalda night is considered the longest night of the year. Families gather on this night and celebrate the coming of winter by eating watermelon and assorted nuts. 'Divine comedy' is a reference to the Islamic Republic's claim of being a divine state with a mandate from God.
"09672... if anyone has the IQ to memorize these five digits they are smart enough to not have any questions about fuel prices."
--Graduate Student in Literature, 27, Saadatabad
* The Oil Ministry has announced a five-digit number where citizens can get answers to all their questions about the new fuel prices.
"The point here is that ten of these 40 years were during the Pahlavi era... I can understand how it's possible for someone not to have had fruit in the Islamic Republic, but can you honestly believe that about the Pahlavi era?"
--Web Designer, early 20s
* Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in his IRIB interview on Saturday, "I know a person who hasn't been able to afford fruit for 40 years."
"The third world is a place where the sesame on bread is priced as an option."
--Student, early 20s
* When buying bread, bakers ask if you want bread with or without sesame. Bread with sesames is more expensive. Bread subsidy compensation has been announced at $4 (IRR 40,000)
"None of the cab companies I called answered their phones. I called five different places. I was finally forced to call a radio cab and even that arrived after an hour. He did not turn on his meter and demanded I pay him IRR 120,000 ($12)... IRR 120,000 for the distance I go every other day and pay IRR 30,000 ($3)...no one can afford private cabs anymore. They should give the government a medal for forcing more people out of work."
--Opera Singer, 28
* Private cab companies do not receive fuel rations because many of them operate without permits and must buy gas at a higher price. Radio cabs and taxicabs are the only ones that can afford to stay in business.
"Forget about Spider-Man. Mahmoud Super-Man has joined the ranks of the superheroes of the world...don't let his height fool you. He really has superpowers!"
--High School Student, 17, Mirdamad
* Ahmadinejad said in his interview on Saturday, "If there is any problem anywhere, I personally will go there and resolve the problem."
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