EghtesadOnline: Facing the prospect of a shortage of assets and a gaping budget, the government, in partnership with other entities, organized the first conference on managing public sector assets and increasing their productivity in Tehran on Sunday.
The conference was attended by Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Masoud Karbasian and other high-level ministry staff as well as representatives of the judiciary and key lawmakers, reports Shada, the official news portal of the Economy Ministry.
Karbasian, who delivered the keynote speech, stressed the fact that the first step in managing public sector assets is to identify all of them, a goal that was seriously pursued during the first tenure of President Hassan Rouhani (started in 2013).
“Ownership of the government over all of its assets and properties has been specified while ownership documents for these assets have been registered by the government and handed out to executive bodies,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Noting that the Iranian economy is an oil- and government-centered one, the minister likened government assets to an iceberg only whose tip is visible to the public.
He referred to the importance of managing state assets in line with directions provided by law, Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani, saying the president has stressed this issue with the aim of instilling financial transparency and improving the efficiency of assets.
Karbasian noted that establishing financial discipline and reducing the government’s budget dependency on oil are other goals of the asset management initiative.
Latest data released by the Central Bank of Iran show that Iran’s budget deficit came in wider than expected in the five months of the current fiscal year (March 21-Aug. 22) and reached 182.7 trillion rials ($4.56 billion).
“To reform the bureaucratic system and develop an electronic government, a comprehensive system was designed and implemented to register its assets to devise precise statistical reports,” he added.
According to Karbasian, the government will soon draft a comprehensive bill to manage its assets, obligate the registry of all government assets in the aforementioned system, continuously evaluate the assets and prevent them from being blocked or frozen [by foreign countries].
Assessment & Transparency
Seyyed Rahmatollah Akrami, deputy economy minister for financial supervision and treasury affairs, also called on all government branches, especially the parliament and the judiciary, to unite in order to manage government assets.
“Preliminary projections indicate that at least one million pieces of property belonging to executive bodies are currently eligible for registry in the asset management system,” he said, adding that more than 350,000 such pieces valued close to 57 trillion rials ($1.42 trillion) have so far been registered.
According to Akrami, an initial estimate puts the total value of government assets at about 183 quadrillion rials ($4.5 trillion) which he said could be a good source for generating more wealth and financing productive efforts.
As the official said, a total of 2,143 executive bodies have so far registered in the system while the macro project to manage government assets currently faces a number of challenges, namely lack of integrated management and cooperation among government bodies.
Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi, the head of Majlis Economic Commission, opined that a significant number of government woes directly and indirectly relate to a lack of management in public sector assets and pledged his support to address the problems.
“Majlis is fully ready to attend to any legislative efforts required to manage and make assets held by the government productive,” he said.
“The first step would be to fully identify and register government assets, and then move to divest them to the private sector for maximizing profitability.”
Noting that the parliament encourages any efforts to identify and evaluate assets, Pour-Ebrahimi called on all executive bodies to declare their assets in order to enhance transparency in the Iranian economy.
“No body or sector is exempt from transparency efforts in the country’s economy,” he said.
Pour-Ebrahimi also pointed out that when the government succeeds in fully specifying and managing its assets, this could significantly help cover its expenditures.