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Iranian Plan To Move Workers From Tehran Flounders

Planners had hoped to move state workers out of Tehran in order to alleviate the city's overloaded infrastructure and to reduce air pollution.
Iranian officials say only about 1,000 workers have moved out of Tehran under a new law that transfers state employees to other parts of the country in an effort to reduce congestion and pollution in the capital, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The law, which was approved in June, had projected that some 200,000 government workers would be moved out of Tehran in order to alleviate the city's overloaded infrastructure and to reduce air pollution.

The law was criticized by many analysts and economic experts after it was passed.

Ahmad Alavi, a Sweden-based economist and university professor, says that "it is hard to say whether the implementers of this law could have forecasted the problems or difficulties" of such legislation.

"The forced transfer of these employees clearly shows that the supporters of the law did not consider or value the motives that brought the workers to Tehran in the first place," he adds.

Workers at different government institutions -- such as the Institute of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism -- reportedly protested against the law when it was passed.

Soheila Vahdati, a U.S.-based civil rights activist, says that there must be enough motivating factors for workers to want to move from Tehran.

"It is not possible to expel people from the city without offering them compensation," she says. "There has to be a proper strategy for implementing such a law."

Ahmadinejad had initially promised financial assistance for workers who agreed to move, namely a bonus to their salaries and a loan to build or buy a new home. But those offers were not promoted or made to all workers who were considered for transfer.

Meanwhile, the government has also introduced plans for "remote working," in which state workers work from home.

Ahmadinejad -- who was the mayor of Tehran before becoming president -- has said the goal is to get as many as 40 percent of Tehran's state workers to work at home.

Officials say statistics show that as many as 65 percent of government workers in Tehran would be willing to take part in the "remote working" plan.

But Hassan Rouhani, head of Tehran's Strategic Research Department, said on January 19 that "remote working" was only possible for a few departments in the state's government institutions.

He added that Iran was not well equipped -- either technologically or financially -- to implement such a plan.