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EghtesadOnline: One of the important tasks of the government is to defend people’s capital.

Societies that have taken the lead in development are those whose governments have been successful in protecting their citizens’ capital from all forms of abuse. This was stated by Nasser Zakeri, an economic analyst, in an article for the Persian daily Shargh. 

A translation of the text follows:

Citizens are eligible to demand the right to property from governments. On the other hand, governments need comprehensive information and statistics to manage the affairs of the society. 

To plan and monitor the economy, the government needs to know about the wealth of citizens and any changes over time. For improving government finances, the fight against corruption and tax evasion depends on having sufficient data on the assets of citizens. That’s why the question “where did you get it from?” became the constant refrain during the process of writing the Iranian Constitution; people and officials were yearning to undertake economic reforms and fight injustice. 

Thanks to long-term negligence on the part of officials, the Iranian society is now grappling with widespread poverty and economic hardships. Yet, a handful of people have managed to join the multibillionaire set overnight. In addition, a group of officials and top managers also accumulated significant amounts of wealth despite the bitter reality of the country’s dismal economic conditions and their employees’ everyday livelihood concerns. 

I wonder how this wealth-generating machine continues to operate despite the fact that many industrial and manufacturing enterprises are struggling with financial problems. How can some office-holders, without any particular business activity other than doing one’s job and without inheritance or patent award, suddenly join the wealthy clique?  Even the youngest children of these families, the so-called trust-fund babies, have billions of rials in their bank accounts. 

All said, one of the first steps to reform the country’s economy is for the government to know about the process of money-making and ways citizens, particularly government officials, acquire wealth. The government needs to identify suspicious transfers of properties but the problem with our economy goes beyond that. 

Powerful opportunists move forward with their business goals under the pretense of charity work. In other words, the definition of ownership in our society is different from the global definition: An opportunist can adjust one’s financial plan in such a way that they may not have attention-grabbing assets to their name, but they and their kin would be able to maintain their family business in the guise of philanthropy. 

These wealthy, powerful people, who usually have not benefited from a comfortable inheritance and have gained all their wealth only through social climbing, are so powerful that they don’t allow any kind of supervision. 

A few years ago, they made the then president say, “The government does not intend to monitor individuals’ bank accounts.” 

Even non-governmental organizations engaged in anti-corruption causes do not dare enter this field. Today, the fight against rent-seeking practices is a grave national responsibility of the government; the first step is to determine the amount of assets held by officials and make a transparent report on their properties public.

One can never hope for improvement and reform in a society where people do not have the right to know the amount of the salary or assets of a civil servant, or where they have earned their university degrees from or in which garrison their sons have served their military duty. 

The president should invite those active in anti-corruption drives to a friendly meeting and, as the spokesman of the nation, ask them to hold officials and powerful people accountable and tighten the noose on rent-seekers. Do it today, tomorrow may be late.