Iran is spending more money on culture, but where’s the accountability?

With all eyes on the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and the country’s upcoming Feb. 26 parliamentary elections, little attention has been paid to the budget bill for the next Iranian year, which President Hassan Rouhani submitted to parliament Jan. 17.

A review of the bill shows an intricate move on the part of the Rouhani administration to increase the funding allocated to the cultural bodies under its control relative to those nominally under the control of the supreme leader, but effectively accountable to no one.

In a largely state-owned economy that has its roots in the seizing of assets by different factions in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, there are a myriad of cultural bodies that receive all or most of their funding from the government. As a result, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which is controlled by the executive branch, is allocated less than a quarter of cultural spending. The rest goes to a long list of bodies ranging from seminaries to private foundations to cultural behemoths controlled by various factions.

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This article was written by Arash Azizi for Al-Monitor on Jan. 27, 2016. Arash Azizi is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. Based in London, he currently hosts one of the most-watched news shows in Iran. Aziz is formerly the international editor of Kargozaran, an Iranian daily.