EghtesadOnline: As Iran is bracing for a fresh surge of coronavirus infections after the outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, a new round of restrictions have been imposed on businesses.
Accordingly, Tehran’s Grand Bazaar has been shut down as of July 4, Mehr News Agency reported.
“Any business owner found flouting the new lockdown order will be prosecuted,” say Behnam Nikmanesh of Iran Chamber of Guilds.
According to a statement by the chamber, only Group-1 businesses are allowed to operate in red-colored cities.
About 1.2 million businesses belong to Group-1.
There are currently 92 cities marked “red” across the country, including Tehran.
Group-1 includes the following 29 business categories:
1. Factories and manufacturing workshops; industrial, mining, agricultural and fisheries centers; slaughterhouses; warehouses and cold storage facilities
2. Infrastructural and vital centers; water, electricity and gas supply and distribution centers; waste management and wastewater centers, air conditioning and purification activities; refineries; fuel stations
3. Public intercity freight and passenger transport, including rail, air, road and marine services
4. Car rentals without driver, public parking lots
5. Military, law enforcement and security centers
6. Grocery stores, chain stores, supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stores and markets
7. Centers for production, storage, distribution and sale of protein products (chicken, meat, fish) and related services
8. Production and supply centers for dairy, bakeries
9. Health, medical and emergency centers, and public and private ambulance services and similar businesses
10. Pharmacies and drugstores, veterinary centers and pet shops, distributors of pharmaceutical products, sellers of traditional medicines, herbs and crop seeds
11. Takeaway food catering services and restaurants, including all producers of cold and hot foods, drinks, ice cream and juices, nuts, sweets and similar businesses
12. Communications operators, electronic services and postal services
13. Internet services (including internet service providers, online stores and internet-based service companies)
14. Print, online media and similar jobs
15. Service providers for the elderly, disabled, military patients, rehabilitation and care centers, and sanatoriums,
16. Repair service providers for cars, home, electric and electronic appliances and computers, home installation services, all technical services as well as carwashes
17. Sellers of all kinds of spare parts; electric, electronic, fishing, agricultural and installation parts and other parts required for production
18. Sellers of building materials such as plaster, cement, ceramics, pipes and fittings, steel products such as iron and aluminum and specialized shopping centers such as those selling rubber, spare parts, ironware, computers (excluding clothing, bags, shoes and mobile phones)
19. Industrial and construction workshops (such as welding and similar businesses)
20. Printing houses; lithographs, typing and copying services and related technical offices; advertising services; paper and cardboard sellers
22. Eyeglass sellers
23. Decorative and natural flowers and plants sale centers
24. Fire and security equipment stores,
25. Drive-in cinemas and theaters,
26. Accommodation centers (hotels, motels, guesthouses, boarding houses and similar occupations)
27. Sellers of chemicals for industrial and agricultural purposes
28. Activities of national sports teams and affiliated leagues in various fields
29. Sellers of pet food and supplements, veterinary supplies and equipment.
The statement comes as chamber of guild officials have voiced their complaint, saying all businesses, including banks and tax institutes must be closed down to contain the pandemic situation.
Qasem Noudeh-Farahani, the head of Tehran Chamber of Guilds, says this round of lockdown will further harm businesses as owners are paying rent and staff members’ wages while they are deprived of revenues during the shutdown.
Businesses affiliated to Iran Chamber of Guilds have suffered as much as 3,000 trillion rials ($12 billion) in losses since the beginning of coronavirus pandemic, Mohammad Baqer Mojtabaei, secretary general of Iran Chamber of Guilds, said recently before the enforcement of the latest round of lockdown.
Guilds suffered a daily loss of 50,000 billion rials ($200 million) in lost sales during the lockdown period, he added.
Inadequate Financial Support
Iran Chamber of Guilds had earlier unveiled a list of businesses severely hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore eligible to receive the government’s relief package in the current fiscal year (March 2021-22).
According to a directive issued by the National Coronavirus Headquarters on the extension of relief package for hardest-hit businesses in the current year, the chamber identified the following guilds and businesses:
Facilities that regularly or occasionally provide accommodation for tourists, such as hotels, hotel apartments, guesthouses, eco-lodges, travel agencies, transportation companies, restaurants, teahouses, confectionaries, fresh juice and ice-cream parlors, barbershops, beauty salons, clothing stores, toy shops, stationary stores, shoe shops, haberdashery shops, tailor shops, cosmetic stores, handicraft outlets, carpet shops and photography studios.
Among other businesses qualified to receive the government’s financial support are shops for flowers, gifts and ornamental fishes, institutions except for schools and universities, kindergartens, culture, art and non-digital media centers, museums, cinemas and theaters, zoos, amusement parks, gymnasiums, sport centers, water parks, pools, car showrooms and dealership businesses, IRNA reported.
“Seventy-five percent of businesses that applied for the government’s relief package for enterprises hurt by the Covid-19 have received their loans,” Hossein Mahmoudi, an official with the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, said, noting that a total of 94,360 billion rials ($377 million) worth of loans have been paid to applicants.
Registration for coronavirus loan started at Kara.mcls.gov.ir on May 9, 2020.
“The total value of loans requested stands at 137,040 billion rials [$548 million]. In general, 18.8% of manufacturing enterprises have applied for these banking facilities,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
As per the government’s coronavirus relief package, workshops which have been hurt directly and closed down by Covid-19 will receive 160 million rials ($640) for each worker and those which were not shut down are eligible to receive 120 million rials ($480) for each worker. With a repayment period of 24 months, the lending rate of these loans is 12%.
Only 7% of businesses hurt by Covid-19 applied for the loans backed by the government during the first quarter of last fiscal year (March 20-June 20, 2020), the secretary-general of Iran Chamber of Guilds has been quoted as saying by ISNA.
Noting that the volume of loans was negligible in relation to the losses suffered by guilds, Mojtabaei said, “The 12% lending rate was another reason behind lukewarm reception toward the government’s relief loan program. Given that the benchmark interest rate in Iran is at 18%, business owners believe that the government’s 6% interest rate subsidy is not worth the difficult application process and length of time it would take to receive the credit.”