The business conglomerate owned by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), plans to build an artificial island in waters off the southern island of Kish, in the Persian Gulf.
Based on a memorandum of understanding (MoU)signed by the commander of of IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbia Construction Base, Saeed Mohammad Eslami, and the managing director of the Kish Free Zone Organization, Gholam Hossein Mozaffari, on Friday, August 30, the artificial island will be used for recreational and residential purposes.
"With the implementation of the MoU, the Kish Free Zone Organization will own the artificial island with an area of 500,000 square meters (approximately 123 acres)," Mozaffari announced.
The completion of studies and implementation of dredging operations in the eastern basin of Kish Island and the construction of the artificial island have been included in the MoU, which is an engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contract, IRGC-run Tasnim news agency reported.
Khatam al-Anbia Construction Base is the IRGC's economic branch with four subdivisions that are active in different fields, including petroleum, energy, and communication projects.
It is not yet clear whether the base had won a bid to build the artificial island or the project was directly granted to it regardless of the law that requires such projects to go for a bid.
It is also not clear how properties on the Island will be sold or rented. There have been many scandals in the past involving senior government officials muscling their way into public lands, in what is known in Iran as “land-grab”.
IRGC's got involved economic and business activities immediately after the Islamic Republic's devastating war with Iraq (1980-1988), but its economic role has greatly expanded in the past 15 years, leading to controversy among Iranians.
IRGC's dominant role in Iran's economy has been repeatedly criticized by President Hassan Rouhani.
"It is a necessity to delegate economic activities to the real private sector," Rouhani said during a Ramadan fast-breaking banquet, or iftar, held late June 22, 2017, in Tehran.
Ten years earlier, in 2007, the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had demanded that government officials speed up implementation of the policies outlined in an amendment to Article 44 of the constitution and move towards economic privatization.
Referring to Khamenei's directive, Rouhani said, "If the policies of Article 44 of the constitution were implemented exactly, we would have a great revolution and progress," adding, "Yet, what did we do? A part of the economy was controlled by an unarmed government, and we delegated it to an armed government. This is not [a sound] economy or privatization."
Rouhani, by using the term "armed government" referred to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which dominates Iran's non-governmental sector.
Privatization in the Islamic republic often does not mean selling government-owned businesses in a transparent fashion to private investors. Instead, many enterprises have been sold below market value to insiders, with loans from government-owned banks.
Referring to IRGC and its economic might, Rouhani said, “It is armed with every means available, and nobody dares to compete with it.”