Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his administration has handed out 40 million dollars among Iranian citizens to make up for cuts to government subsidies over the past year, adding that three times that amount should be redistributed.

At a gathering of the Society of Islamic Workers, the Iranian president said today: “Up until now, 70 percent of the subsidies would be pocketed by 30 percent of the populace, and some would only accept the subsidies in order to sell them and profit from them.”

Ahmadinejad’s statements come as Parliament is pressuring the administration to help fund the cash payments that are meant to cushion the blow of reduced subsidies, saying that otherwise the amount of those handouts would have had to be reduced.

Each person now receives about 40 dollars in benefits to ease the restructuring of government subsidies. The source of these payments has not been made clear, although some reports indicate that the Central Bank has loaned out unspecified amounts, anticipating repayment after the subsidies are cut.

Ahmadinejad also contended that his administration has created 1.6 million jobs last year and is on track to create another 2.5 million jobs in the current year.

He said his administration plans to achieve these targets by reforming labour laws and regulating the market, but his ideas have been dismissed in some quarters.

MP Ahmad Tavakoli, the head of Parliament’s research centre, rejected Ahmadinejad’s claim of creating 1.6 million jobs, saying the number does not jibe with the meagre economic growth of one percent.

Other MPs have called on the administration to simply try to maintain current jobs, given the dire state of the country’s manufacturing and industrial sectors.

The government says 3.5 million people are unemployed in Iran, but experts say the real figure is much higher.