The government allocates at least 80 times more money to religious propaganda, education and other religious activities than it does to disaster relief, a review of the national budget reveals.
The Iranian Interior Ministry’s National Disaster Management Organization (NDMO) is the most important government agency for disaster management in Iran. The agency coordinates the work of all government groups involved in relief efforts such as the devastating floods that have hit Iran over the last week, beginning on March 18.
The NDMO’s website defines its services in six categories:
- Coordination and monitoring of the allocation of budget for damage, reconstruction and retrofitting of buildings and infrastructures.
- Preparation of educational services and empowerment in disaster management.
- Management and supervision of the actions and facilities of the working groups, councils and governmental institutions associated with disaster management.
- Establishment of comprehensive disaster management information based on prediction and prevention plans.
- Use of non-government organizations (NGOs) and their specialist abilities.
- Presentation of structure, law, guidelines and documentation related to disaster management.
Although, strictly speaking, none of these services can be considered to be executive or developmental services, the NDMO is a large umbrella organization that, according to its charter, supervises 14 working groups, in which almost all executive agencies participate, from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Roads and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), depending on the task at hand or what planning for possible disasters might be required.
In the latest government budget, the NDMO’s allocation is 12.75 billion tomans, or around $3.035 million [Persian link]. Of this amount, 200 million tomans (less than $48,000) is earmarked for new projects and the rest funds current programs. More than 5.66 tomans (close to $1.4 million) of this budget is earmarked to pay the salaries of the organization’s employees, 2.9 billion tomans (less than $700,000) for “social welfare” services and 3.3 billion tomans (close to $786,000) to purchase goods and services.
Of course, this is the national budget’s allocation for the NDMO’s central headquarters. The provincial headquarters’ expenses are provided via each province’s budget. So, to put these numbers in perspective, it is important to look at other institutions that are also not classified as executive or developmental, but which are engaged in coordination, planning and preparations — for example, the major religious institutions responsible for producing and coordinating religious propaganda and managing the affairs of the seminaries and the clergy.
A Staggering Share of the Budget
In the national budget for the Iranian year 1398 (March 21, 2019-March 20, 2020), the following amounts have been earmarked for religious institutions:
- The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, 26.2 billion tomans (over $6.3 million).
- Imam Khomeini’s shrine, 24.5 billion tomans (over $5.8 million), almost twice the budget of the National Disaster Management Organization.
- Religious Endowments and Charity Organization, said to be the biggest economic institution in Iran after the government, around 305 billion tomans (over $72.6 million), almost 24 times the budget of the NDMO.
- Koranic Sciences University, 31 billion tomans (close to $7.4 million).
- Supporting Sunni seminaries, around 126 billion tomans (close to $30 million).
- Seminaries’ Services Center, which supports seminary students and pays for their insurance, around 1,029 billion tomans (almost $245 million), close to 80 times the budget of the NDMO.
- Supreme Religious Seminary Council, 306 billion tomans (close to $73 million).
- Khorasan Seminaries, 87 billion tomans (over $21 million).
- Women’s Religious Seminaries, around 170 billion tomans (close to $41 million).
- Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, 230 billion tomans (over $54.7 million).
- The World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, 28 billion tomans (close to $6.7 million).
- Ahl Al-Bayt World Assembly, an organization whose aim it is to foster unity among Muslims across the globe, 33 billion tomans (over $7.8 million).
- Ahl Al-Bayt International University, around 5 billion tomans (close to $1.2 million).
- University of Islamic Denominations, 11.6 billion tomans (over $2.7 million).
- Islamic Development Organization, close to 152 billion tomans (over $36 million).
- Islamic Propaganda Coordination Council, 34 billion tomans (over $8 million).
- Qom Seminary’s Office for Religious Propaganda, another seminary-related budget item, around 150 billion tomans (over $35.7 million), almost twice the budget of the NDMO.
Adding together the funds allocated to the council and the Qom Seminary office reveals that close to 15 times the budget of the NDMO is spent on Islamic proselytizing and propaganda.
- Islamic Revolution’s Research and Cultural Institute, 25 billion tomans (close to $6 million), twice the budget of the NDMO.
- Islamic Research Institute for Culture and Thought, 18 billion tomans ($4.3 million).
- Friday Imams’ Policy Council, 20 billion tomans (over $4.76 million), or 7 billion tomans (almost $1.7 million) more than the budget of the NDMO. The biggest responsibility of this council is to prepare sermons for Friday prayers.
- Center for Mosque Affairs, 28 billion tomans (over $6.6 million).
- Headquarters for Call to Prayers, 12 billion tomans (almost $2.86 million).
- Headquarters for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, 15 billion tomans (close to $3.6 million).
- Computer Research Center for Islamic Sciences, 12 billion tomans (almost $2.86 million).
- Islamic Jurisprudence Encyclopedia Institute, 3.5 billion tomans (over $833,000).
- Islamic-Iranian Model of Progress Center, 5 billion tomans (almost $1.2 million).
- Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library, 6.23 billion tomans (close to $1.5 million).
- Al-Mustafa International University, around 202 billion tomans (over $48 million), 16 times the budget of the National Disaster Management Organization.