Iran Government Shuts Down for 48 Hours

Iran couldn’t take the heat. Temperatures of over 50 C in Iran have shut the Islamic Republic down. For two days, all civil servants and public workers have gotten an unexpected holiday.

Government in Iran is big. With its ranks swelling at 2.2 million full time employees, Iran’s Uncle Sam stands as the biggest employer. The official reason as released by the state was “unprecedented heat,” though it is assumed that the real motive was to save electricity. Though Iran is one of the biggest exporters of crude oil, it severely lacks domestic refining capabilities, making its domestic production of electricity expensive. Citizens are also subject to gasoline rationing.

The Iranian government has not been attempting to hide its electricity shortage, however. “People should help by consuming electricity more considerately,” said Majid Namjoo, energy minister in the Islamic Republic.

The unexpected vacation lasted through Sunday and Monday the 12th of July, giving Iran a three day weekend.

Economists advocating reform have decried the Iranian government’s neglect of infrastructure projects and claimed that continued neglect would damage power generation.

Though the private sector was not officially connected to the shutdown, some companies did in fact tell their workers not to come in, since their contracts are connected with the government. “We need to be in constant touch with the state-owned organization which has a contract with us,” said one businessman, “but suddenly the government shuts down two working days after a public holiday which means the whole week is gone, while our contract specifically mentions fines for every single day of delay.”

To his credit, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, instead of concentrating on infrastructure development, has concentrated on transferring oil revenue to the poor. In response, Iran’s ability to produce electricity has deteriorated, though its inflation rate has slowed to single digits for the first time in over 20 years.

One reason for a slowing in the inflation rate could also be simple economic sluggishness, in that if people stop spending money, profits go down and inflation rates drop accordingly. In fact, in the last month, 1 in 8 checks reportedly bounced.

The status of the Iranian nuclear program during the 2-day hiatus was unclear.