One killed as protests erupt after Iran hikes petrol prices

One killed as protests erupt after Iran hikes petrol prices ...
aljazeera.com 16/11/2019 News

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Demonstrations erupt after authorities announce surprise decision to ration petrol and raise prices by 50 percent.
People protest against a hike in petrol prices on a highway in Tehran [WANA via Reuters]

* * * One person has been killed in the Iranian city of Sirjan during overnight protests against a decision by authorities to ration and increase the price of petrol by at least 50 percent as part of efforts to offset the effect of crippling US sanctions.
"Unfortunately someone was killed," the central city's acting Governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA. He said the cause of the death and whether "the individual was shot or not" was still unclear, adding that other people were wounded in the demonstrations on Friday night.
Mahmoudabadi said "security forces did not have permission to shoot and were only allowed to fire warning shots... which they did." He added it was a "calm gathering" that was exploited by some who "destroyed public property, damaged fuel stations and also wanted to access the oil company's main fuel depots and set fire to them".
Their effort was thwarted by forces including the police, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia, ISNA quoted him as saying.
Earlier on Saturday, state news agency IRNA said "scattered" protests had also broken out overnight in other cities including Abadan, Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, Gachsaran, Khoramshahr, Mahshahr, Mashhad and Shiraz.
Reporting from Iran's capital, Tehran, Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, said "sporadic gatherings across the country in various different cities" took place on Saturday morning following the overnight protests.
"People are still very much angry, saying this is absolutely unacceptable given the current economic status of the country," she said.
'Shocked and stunned'
After months of speculation, authorities announced in the early hours of Friday that petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards.
Vehicles for private use are to be restricted to 60 litres (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol will jump 50 percent to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13 at open market rates) a litre. Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) a litre.
The moves prompted fears of households facing further economic pressure in a country whose economy is forecast to shrink by 9.5 percent this year. Iranians, especially those getting by on low- and middle-income wages - have already taken a massive hit due to a currency crisis and an inflationary wave that formed on the back of US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed between world powers and Iran in 2015.
"Iranians woke up to this news and were shocked and stunned," Jabbari said.
"Without any warning, the prices went up drastically and many here say that this is not something they can really deal with because it will have ramifications in other aspects of their daily life, meaning that the price of bread, eggs and other goods will also rise because of this."
Protests require prior approval from Iran's interior ministry, though authorities routinely allow small-scale demonstrations over economic issues, especially as the country has struggled with currency devaluation.
The demonstrations, though not as widespread as the economic protests that shook the country nearly two years ago, put new pressure on the government of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani before parliamentary elections in February.
'Politically explosive'
Iranian officials say the proceeds from the initiative will not go to government coffers but will be used instead to fund subsidies for low-income families.
Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of the Plan and Budget Organisation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced that the revenues from the initiative will be distributed among 18 million households - about 60 million people - in the form of monthly cash handouts.
A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18). This is separate from the 445,000 rials ($3.90) that each household member is eligible to receive under Iran's long-running monthly state cash subsidies plan.
"As in many countries, tinkering with the price of gas is politically explosive. After massive protests, the Hassan Rouhani administration was forced to back down from a 2017 plan to increase prices by 50 percent," Henry Rome, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, told The Associated Press news agency.
"The government was clearly attuned to this risk: The latest announcement was made in the middle of the night before a weekend, it took effect immediately, and it was announced without direct consultation with lawmakers."
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies
https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/petrol-rationing-price-hikes-iranians-surprise-191115155053008.html
Petrol rationing and price hikes take Iranians by surprise

* * * Drivers in Iran were caught off-guard by snap plan that includes a steep increase in the cost of motor fuel.
by Maziar Motamedi
Tehran, Iran - When 37-year-old apparel retailer Farshad was getting ready to go to sleep just after midnight on Friday, his phone alerts suddenly blew up with social media posts reacting to a government policy that many figured was in the pipeline, but that had still struck without warning.
The government in Iran had announced that - effective immediately - petrol would be rationed and prices would triple.
"I guess we all knew this was happening one way or another, since the government has been reintroducing fuel cards for rationing," said Farshad, who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname to protect his privacy. "But a midnight announcement and this price hike came out of nowhere."
In the early hours of Friday morning, Iranian state television broadcasted a statement by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company saying petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards.
Vehicles for private use are to be restricted to 60 litres (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol will jump 50 percent to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13 at open market rates) per litre. Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) per litre.
'We're all drowning'
In early May, after hardline Iranian news websites reported that fuel rationing was imminent, long queues formed at petrol stations all over the country.
Friday's news was not telegraphed in advance, but people still started queueing at petrol stations. Though the price hike was immediate, any unused monthly ration quotas can be saved for up to six months.
Petrol in Iran - the world's number five oil producer - is cheaper than in most countries. That could bolster justifications for a price hike, given the beating that Iran's budget has sustained since the administration of United States President Donald Trump started applying its "maximum pressure" campaign of sanctions on Iran over a year ago.
Still, as many Iranians pointed out on social media, average incomes are too low to comfortably absorb the fuel price hike.
"I wish economic austerity wasn't only for average people. That way this would hurt less," wrote a journalist on her Instagram account. "We're all drowning, it's only a matter of time."
Iranians, especially those getting by on low- and middle-income wages, have taken a massive hit due to a currency crisis and an inflationary wave that formed on the back of US sanctions imposed after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.
'At the expense of the people'
The government of President Hassan Rouhani has tried to reassure the general public that the initiative is meant to help improve peoples' quality of life.
Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of the Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced that the revenues from the initiative will be distributed among 18 million households - about 60 million people - in the form of monthly cash handouts.
A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18). This is separate from the 445,000 rials ($3.90) that each household member is eligible to receive under Iran's long-running monthly state cash subsidies plan.
According to the Rouhani administration, not a single rial yielded from the rationing initiative will go to government coffers.
"The government is doing it differently this time, but it still feels like they're trying to make up for their deficits at the expense of the people," said Saeed, a 48-year-old architect who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname.
"And whenever gasoline prices go up, prices of other goods go up, too, so I doubt the cash handouts will be able to make up for it," he told Al Jazeera.
'Can afford less fuel'
The populist administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007 rationed gasoline and increased prices, but that move failed to curb rampant fuel smuggling or decrease consumption.
Some Iranians on social media have pointed to the irony of a 2015 tweet by President Rouhani, in which he said, "Gasoline offered at two prices created corruption, so we unified the prices".
Iran has some of the largest energy reserves in the world, but due to limited refining capacity - and sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance - it has for years faced an uphill battle in meeting its domestic fuel needs.
Despite the public dissatisfaction and anger, some Iranians still hold out hope that a silver lining may emerge from the rationing scheme if fewer people are driving. Tehran has been battling smog and air pollution for the past week that led to the closure of schools.
"People are under so much pressure," said 27-year-old Tehran resident Anahid, who asked that his surname be withheld. "But there's no denying this pollution and traffic either, so maybe more people will turn to public transport if they literally can afford less fuel."
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

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