Sunday , 21 April 2024

Leaked Letter: Khamenei Seeks More Funds For Religious Entities

iranintl – Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s chief of staff requested a higher budget for organizations affiliated with his office and religious institutions in 2023, according to a leaked letter.

The confidential correspondence from Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpaygani, Khamenei’s chief of staff, to Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, dated January 31, 2023, reveals dissatisfaction with the stagnant budget allocation for Khamenei’s affiliated entities and organizations in the 2022-2023 budget.

The letter, unveiled by the hackers’ group “Ghiyam ta Sarnegouni” (Uprising till Overthrow), a hackers group linked to the opposition People’s Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MEK), appeared on their Instagram account last week.

Golpaygani urged parliament to amend and augment the budget for these entities and organizations, such as the Social Security Center of Seminaries, in the upcoming fiscal year (March 21, 2023, to March 20, 2024), citing the need for adjustments in line with inflation, which has been hovering above 40 percent for the past five years. The center oversees payment of benefits and health insurance to unemployed seminary students.

The document is part of a collection the group claims to have obtained by breaching 600 of the parliament’s main servers through its Khaneh Mellat (Nation’s Home) News Agency.

In his letter, Golpaygani also called for a separate budget allocation to support a center responsible for addressing accommodation issues among foreign students at Al-Mustafa International University in Qom.

Al-Mustafa International University, a state-funded Shiite seminary under Khamenei’s authority, has branches in over fifty countries and annually sponsors hundreds of foreign students from various regions, enabling them to pursue studies in Iran.

In 2020, the university received a budget of nearly 5 trillion rials, approximately $100 million based on the official exchange rate at that time, surpassing the budget of any other university in Iran.

In June 2023, the same hackers’ group leaked a document obtained by hacking the presidential office, indicating a 96 percent increase in the previous year’s budget for the same center, amidst a significant budget deficit faced by the government.

The budget allocated to a host of religious and propaganda entities under Khamenei’s control as well as the military is often augmented with “contributions” from government bodies, which obscures the total money put at their disposal and their expenditure is usually very untransparent.

The budget bill proposed by the government of President Ebrahim Raisi for the next fiscal year starting March 21, for instance, obligates government banks and companies to allocate one percent of their spendings to “promote the Islamic culture, the [ideology of] martyrdom, [encouragement to] having more children, Quranic affairs, and the media”. The parliament is unlikely to contest or scrape proposed budget.

Salaries and pensions of civil servants and workers and the minimum wage, however, have not increased in tandem with an inflation of over 40 percent in the past few years, leading to great dissatisfaction among ordinary people. Monthly wages for workers and government employees hovers around $120-200, while a family of three needs at least $450 a month to survive.

For the next fiscal year, for instance, the parliament has so far approved an increase of 20 percent in minimum wage against the backdrop of an alarming annual inflation rate nearing 50 percent, the rising US dollar rate which hugely affects prices and consumers’ purchasing power, and the threat of further depreciation in the upcoming fiscal year, starting March 21.

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