1.6 million Iranian families are either not paying their gas bills or already owe the National Iranian Gas Company for not having paid for previous energy usage, says the spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s energy committee.
Lawmaker Emad Hosseini told the Iranian Parliament’s official news agency that the government was already facing a budget deficit since the revenues expected from the new subsidy reform plan had not materialised. He said the deficit was the outcome of the population’s evasion of gas bills.
“When so many homes refuse to pay their debts to the National Gas Company, it’s natural that the government will not obtain the revenues it anticipated,” he explained.
He said that the currently, the government was making monthly cash payments of around $2.8 billion.
The deficit is likely to have an impact on the monthly cash payments of around $40 to ordinary citizens which began after the controversial subsidy reform plan was implemented in December 2010.
“How can we speak about tripling the cash payments when the [predicted] revenues have not been met?” Hosseini asked.
Hosseini was apparently addressing recent claims made by Ahmadinejad who spoke of government plans to increase the monthly cash payments by threefold. He had promised the distribution of nearly $114 billion amongst the population in the near future.
Certain commodities such as fuel have traditionally been heavily subsided by the Iranian government. Following the scrapping of state subsidies, analysts and politicians predicted that more vulnerable sectors of Iranian society would refuse to pay their new energy bills because of the implementation of the subsidy reform plan.
As the plan was being reviewed in parliament, Ahmad Tavakkoli, a prominent Majles deputy, asked Ahmadinejad’s Energy Minister, “If people in the impoverished areas decide not to pay their bills, will you be able to do anything about it?”
Shortly after the implementation of the plan, the Deputy Director of the National Iranian Gas Company, Mostafa Kashkouli, admitted that 30 percent of the company’s customers had evaded their gas bills. The official warned that customers would face 24 or even 48-hour cut-offs should they continue to avoid paying bills.