Amir Abbas Hoveyda, and
"Decentralization for Iran"
The Kayhan newspaper, Tehran May 15,1976
Written by Shaul Bakhash who is currently a professor of history at George Mason University
Decentralization had been for many years at the heart of Hoveyda's programs.Once every trimester he used to move his cabinet for four or five days to one of the provinces. There, the ministers would meet with the local authorities and the representatives of the people.In Hoveyda's opinion this was real democracy in action.He and his aides would listen to the people airing their needs and revise accordingly the development plans.On one such move of the cabinet, Shaul Bakhash who at the time was a reporter for the daily KAYHAN, accompanied Hoveyda and his ministers to Tabriz, capital of Azerbaijan province. Here are some extracts of the article he published in Kayhan (May 15,1976):
"The progress we have made in the last 50 years has been extraordinary" the representative from Ardabil said as he finished reading a long list of demands from villages and settlements in his district for roads,schools,water supply, health facilities."But the expectations of the people have also risen"
So it went in the lengthy session Prime Minister Hoveyda and his cabinet held in Tabriz
on Wednesday, last week, with local representatives and officials from East Azerbaijan
He, (representative of Ardabil) was followed by the representatives of the Tabriz township council and parliamentary deputies from the major constituencies of East Azerbaijan. Members of local town and township councils completed the roster.
Invariably the theme of the speakers was the same. The Prime minister and his team were repeatedly asked to to provide more social services and infrastructure facilities..The city of Tabriz asked for a ring road. From Ardabil there was a call for an airport_From Mianeh came a request for feeder roads to permit villagers to reach clinics and hospitals and move their products to market. The representative of Kalibar sought a hospital for his township. The citizens of Marand needed electricity. The more ambitious spoke of youth centers,daycare and gymnasia. When Hoveyda flew from Tabriz by helicopter to other provincial towns on Thursday,he heard local inhabitants at Mianeh, Maragheh and Sareskend repeat the same demands.
All this was not an indication of lack of development but of rising expectations_There was a new awareness of possibilities. The East Azerbaijan trip served a number of useful purposes. First, it is becoming amply clear that local inhabitants are learning to speak out. The sight of local councelors up before the whole cabinet to say the government does not coordinate its programs well enough,that the village consolidation programme can have harmful side-effects or that the villages alongg a particular stretch lack medical facilities, was not common in the past.They are doing so now.
Secondly the trip forced the ministers to come face to face with the tough business of making development work at the local level. Most important, the cabinet visit highlighted a very real problem:how can a mechanism be created to ensure that local wishes filter upwards and the desire to meet them filters downwards and is realized in concrete projects... (The Prime minister ) agrees that there may be some wastage of funds in the process of decentralization. But he regards it as an inevitable part of the process.
The concept that Hoveyda presented at Tabriz,which is to treat each province as a
"development unit",builds on the programmes of regional development already
under way.But it appears to go considerably further.Hoveyda would clearly like to
decentralize to a much grater degree.nd he would like to find means for integrating
separate development projects and programmes in each province or region into a more
closely knit development plan.
(Shaul Bakhash, author of the above article, is currently professor of history at George Mason University.
SHAUL BAKHASH (Iran, modern Middle East, modern Islamic political thought) received his D.Phil. from Oxford University. He is the author of Iran: Monarchy, Bureaucracy and Reform Under the Oajars, 1858-1896, The Politics of Oil and Revolution in Iran, and Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution, as well as numerous articles and reports. He writes frequently for the New York Review of Books. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and other publications. He worked for many years as a journalist in Iran, writing for Tehran-based Kayhan Newspapers as well as for the London Times, the Financial Times and The Economist. Before coming to George Mason University to be Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History in 1985, he taught at Princeton University. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and been awarded fellowships at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Humanities Center. His current research deals with Islam and political sensibility; the history of modern Iran remains an abiding interest.
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