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Iran official sacked as fears of China's economic influence grow

While the comment infuriated the sitting government, to many it was an honest slip of the tongue about the extent of the crisis in Iran's cash-strapped economy, stirring up also speculation on Chinese "colonial-style" influence.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, February 14, 2023. Iran's President Website

TEHRAN — A senior official at Iran's Labor Ministry was sacked after he drew the anger of his superiors with remarks on the severity of Iran's economic crisis and how it may force the government to sell off valuable territory.  

"We once lost 300,000 martyrs not to lose a handspan of our territory," the official, Sajjad Padam, said in an interview published by the economic outlet Navad-e Eghtesadi earlier this week. "But now we are reaching a point where we may have to sell off the [tourist] Kish and Qeshm islands and even the [oil-rich] Khuzestan province."  

As director for social insurance at Iran's Labor Ministry, Padam was underlining the crisis in Iran's pension funds system, which consecutive administrations have been grappling with. He compared the situation to that of Greece, "which had to sell out some 100 islands to clear its debt. … We will be just heading toward that path."  

More than one-fourth of Iran's 85 million population is formed by pensioners, who are covered by 18 cash-strapped state-run funds. 

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