By Mahmoud Hakamian
Iran’s domestic paper production has come to a standstill, state-run Mehr news agency quotes head of Paper and Cardboard Syndicate as saying.
The main reason for this, according to Abolfasl Roghani, is lack of support for domestic paper manufacturers and paper import by the government and its associated entities like the Ministries of Education and Islamic Guidance, as they’re unwilling to buy domestic papers and prefer imported ones instead.
“Import of writing and printing papers is attractive for importers as they can benefit from such facilities like discounted currency rates. This adds to lack of support for domestic producers to drive the factories into closure”, says Roghani.
Roghani then points to the country’s three major paper manufacturers, namely Mazandaran Wood and Paper, Tabriz Paper, and Pars Paper, saying that “none of these manufacturers had a significant output last year.”
“Besides, the situation this year is expected to get even worse as there’s been no improvement so far,” adds Roghani.
Speaking in such a way as if it’s a big deal, Hassan Rouhani’s Islamic Guidance Minister had earlier referred to government’s policy of importing paper for state-linked entities and press, saying “as the government cares about the country’s cultural needs, paper will be listed as a principal commodity and thus will be subject to the government’s discounted currency rate. This is good news for publishers, authors and the press, showing the government believes cultural needs are as important for the country as foodstuff and medicine.”
The policy has meanwhile led to closure of paper producing factories, some with more than half a century of operation. With factories closed or operating at their minimum capacity, both the country’s paper production has been ruined and the factories’ workers have joined the army of unemployed.
As an instance, Mazandaran Wood and Paper factory’s decreased production last year threatened job security of the factory’s official and contract workers, so that nearly 400 workers lost their jobs.
The country’s ongoing paper production stoppage is while regime leader Ali Khamenei named last year as the ‘Year of Resistance Economy’ and this year as the ‘Year of Supporting Iranian Products’, with Rouhani’s government officials also supporting such empty, irrelevant naming. Nonetheless, the government as the biggest importer of paper is actually the main destroyer of domestic paper production.
It’s clear that the government’s predatory policy actually allows regime-linked bodies and businesses to make bigger profits. While the maximum profit a domestic paper producer makes is 6 to 8 percent, the profit the government-linked paper importers make is close to 50 percent.” (State-run Tejarat-e-Farda weekly, January 10, 2015)
Due to this policy, non-government consumers of paper have always been worried about increase in the price of paper, while hoping for a price stability that never happened.
That’s why it’s impossible for such consumers to plan for the coming year, unlike other countries in which fluctuation in paper price is so insignificant that publishers can easily develop a one-year plan for their business. (State-run Iran newspaper, October 19, 2017)
This is while the government buys the imported paper at any price the foreign sellers ask for, according to head of Paper Syndicate. (Regime’s Public Broadcasting news agency, April 23, 2018)
It’s obvious that the policy of excessively importing goods, including the low quality ones, is aimed at filling the deep pockets of state officials and businesses linked to the regime. Besides, the regime this way is actually making concessions to its foreign trade partners in exchange for their support in international communities.
Needless to say, this is not just the Rouhani’s government that has adopted such a policy, but it’s a policy that’s been pursued by all governments ever since the regime came to power.
This article was first published ncr-iran