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Recovery from war

National reconstruction plans
Support from international organizations and local communities
Urban reconstruction
Housing reconstruction
Industrial reconstruction

Defining priorities for reconstruction became a fulcrum for partisan debate and political contest in the Iranian government. This is an experience common to many societies that have experienced widespread destruction from disaster, whether it is war, industrial calamity, or natural disaster. In Iran, different political groups sought to have their own social and economic agendas reflected in the reconstruction strategy. Debate centred around four issues rebuilding the military, reinvigorating the national economy, promoting the economic wellbeing of the poor, and reconstructing war-damaged areas. Only the most radical faction of the government was concerned with equity and social justice. Conservative and pragmatist factions believed that economic growth and efficiency should guide reconstruction, and it is these views that came to dominate official policy. As a result, most reconstruction efforts are devoted to strengthening market mechanisms, privatization, and liberalization of trade.

Imports are an essential component of the Iranian economy, and reconstruction of both the civilian and military sectors cannot be accomplished without them. But imports must be paid for with hard currency and most of this is obtained in exchange for Iranian oil. Unfortunately, Iran's oil revenues have been insufficient for the task and government leaders are preoccupied with finding alternative sources of hard currency. Conservative factions which are currently in power - favour opening the Iranian economy to foreign investors, limiting state intervention, and allowing the market and the private sector to stimulate rapid economic growth. More radical factions have argued for growth at a slower pace and for government investment in domestic industries that will supply cement, steel, and other commodities to meet the basic needs of reconstruction. The radicals have also favoured a welfare relief programme that targets the neediest. While domestic investment and relief are included in the government's reconstruction plan, conservative policies are clearly dominant.

Table 6.3 Distribution of direct economic damage of the war by province, 1980-1988 (million rials, current prices)

Province Buildings and installations Machinery and equipment Materials and goods Total Percentage of total
Khuzestan 7,523,721 1,449,719 1,585,219 10,558,659 34.27
Lorestan 10,689 1,007,378 34,737 1,052,804 3.42
Ilam 637,761 6,453 82,721 726,935 2.36
Bakhtaran 275,065 36,059 271,764 582,888 1.89
Sistan and Baluchestan 0 315,074 3 315,077 1.02
W. Azerbaijan 11,113 264,763 31,691 307,567 1.00
Total of the six most-damaged provinces 8,458,349 3,079,446 2,006,135 13,543,930 43.96
Other provinces 1,469,949 6,472,502 9,325,041 17,267,492 56.04
Total 9,928,298 9,551,948 11,331,176 30,811,422 100.00
Share of the six most-damaged provinces in total damage (%) 85.19 32.24 17.70 43.96  

Source: Amirahmadi (1992b: 80).

Since 1989, President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a political pragmatist, has tried to accommodate public, private, and cooperative sectors in the reconstruction process. His government has relied on a blend of domestic resources and capabilities; international trade, investment and borrowing; expansion of the role of the private sector; and utilization of public planning and market mechanisms. Following recommendations of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government has implemented economic stabilization and structural adjustment programmes that are designed to put the economy on a peacetime footing that emphasizes increased growth and greater efficiency. Most price controls have been lifted; nationalized industries are being sold to the private sector; subsidies have largely been eliminated; a single exchange rate has been introduced; the Iranian rial has been devalued and made convertible, and the government's budget deficit has been brought under control. The Iranian government has also taken a series of other steps: it has borrowed upwards of $30 billion from foreign governments and financial and industrial institutions; it has encouraged - with less success foreign investment; and it has created free economic zones in the Persian Gulf islands and elsewhere in the country. The immediate impacts of this macroeconomic policy have been higher inflation, a wider gap between the incomes of rich and poor, and a larger international debt; meanwhile, its long-term success remains in doubt while the US government opposes the government in Teheran and there is uncertainty about political changes following the end of Rafsanjani's term in 1997. However, from the perspective of economic growth, the policy has already been successful because the growth rate has averaged about 8 per cent per year between 1989 and 1992. None the less, most of the benefits of this growth have been eroded by a population increase rate of around 3.2 per cent per year (1992).

National reconstruction plans

The First Socio-Economic and Cultural Development Plan of the Islamic Republic provided for three, more or less distinct, stages of economic reconstruction. Industrial recovery is an important objective. In the first stage, efforts are directed toward full use of existing productive capacities (particularly in oil and gas), infrastructure, and human resources. Strong emphasis is also placed on agriculture and rural development. The goal at this stage is the restoration of the economy to its normal functioning level and the increase of oil exports to generate as much foreign exchange as possible. Structural adjustment and stabilization, as prescribed by the World Bank and IMF, and investment in the oil sector are the major government programmes at present.

The next plan (1994-1998) will focus on using oil revenue to achieve economic growth and increased per capita income by expanding productive capacities and job-generating investments. The third and final plan will attempt to consolidate the growth process and make it independent of the oil sector. This is a stage far into the future. Iranian leaders believe that only then will the country be able to achieve goals of social justice and economic self-sufficiency.

While economic normalization is the focus of the first national plan, the government has also been making progress toward the physical reconstruction of war-damaged areas and the establishment of new economic activities. Before authorities could plan for rebuilding urban and industrial areas, they needed to know how many people would be returning to pre-war settlements; hence population projections were undertaken. Second, the government studied the functions of various cities in anticipation of changing their pre-war roles. Third, authorities adopted a regional view of development according to which, cities and villages were regarded as integral parts of provinces that were themselves part of an integrated national state.

The National Spatial Planning Strategy requires that reconstruction of rural settlements will precede that of the cities. The intent is to prevent unwanted migration of rural people to the cities. This strategy is consistent with the government's earlier plan to make agriculture an axis of development and to resettle rural areas. The government's plan calls for gradual reconstruction of towns and villages so that people will return to their previous settlements as essential public and private activities are taking shape. Planning, cultural matters, and other human dimensions of reconstruction are said to have received particular attention. It is judged that, as ravaged areas are revitalized, war migrants will return and help to rebuild damaged structures. Housing reconstruction has remained a major parameter in the overall plan for normalization of conditions (tabi'i sazi) in the damaged areas.

During the war, reconstruction was an emergency or replacement activity that focused largely on housing. Now it includes upgrading building quality, infrastructure, and economic productivity. The Supreme Council for Reconstruction and Renovation of War-Damaged Areas is the highest-level body responsible for reconstruction. It makes strategic decisions and oversees efforts to promote public financial contributions. Another body, the Central Headquarters for Reconstruction, sets priorities, makes policies, supervises implementation of projects, and coordinates the work of other organizations. The various sectoral reconstruction headquarters coordinate reconstruction works with the sectoral planning committees and supervise projects being implemented by contractors. Finally, the provincial and county reconstruction headquarters are responsible for a variety of tasks, including prioritizing the reconstruction projects for implementation. These governmental institutions are assisted by other public and private organizations including the Housing Foundation, the Ministry of Reconstruction Crusade, the Endowment for the Eighth Imam, Setadha-ye Mo'in (supporting centres for particular projects or cities such as Khorramshahr's Setad), philanthropic organizations, and revolutionary foundations (baseej and komiteh).

Where possible, the Iranian government does not relocate or attempt to combine damaged settlements. Rather, the policy is to rebuild them on their original sites (darja sazi). This is intended to minimize cost, save time, and prevent unnecessary conflict between the people and the government. The government also avoids certain actions such as reconstructing apartment complexes, building houses before the owners have returned to the settlements, and using prefabrication techniques. Experience in Iran indicates that previously those actions were not popular with the people. Rather, endogenous techniques and ones that use more local or national resources are preferred: they are said to reduce the nation's technological dependency. A flexible planning approach is adopted so that feedback and inputs from people are easily incorporated to improve the quality of operations. In reconstructing population centres, the order of priority is, first, residential and commercial units and factories producing construction materials, followed by other employment-generating activities, particularly in agriculture and small industries. Provision of heat, water, electricity, roads, infrastructures, educational and health services, communication links, and urban amenities are also given high priority. At the national level, special priority has been attached to reconstruction of large industrial units such as petrochemical complexes, oil refineries, and power plants.

There are three levels of reconstruction plans. "National sector" plans (bakhsh-e melli) include large industrial and infrastructural projects that are implemented by ministries. "Popular sector" plans (bakhsh-e mardomi) deal with reconstruction of residential and commercial units by their owners. "Regional sector" plans (bakhsh-e mantaqehei) encompass regional development programmes and urban or rural service projects. They are implemented by reconstruction offices in the damaged areas. The role of government is limited to investing in job-generating productive units, supervision of reconstruction processes, provision of technical services, and financial assistance. In all cases, site preparation is a public responsibility. The government is also responsible for equipping public offices with adequate equipment and skilled labour, as well as for delivering basic construction materials to the project sites.

Financially, the public sector assists reconstruction by investing in infrastructure; providing technical and managerial personnel; reimbursing the public for part of the war-related losses; and granting credits, loans, and other banking services. For rebuilding urban residential units (from 60 to 120 square metres), the government pays up to 6 million rials, plus the cost of construction materials.

Support from international organizations and local communities

International economic and diplomatic communities are playing a limited but direct role in reconstruction, to some degree reversing the "hands-off" approach adopted by other countries during the war. Firms from Western Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States (as subcontractors) are currently involved in rebuilding oil installations and have joined in other major industrial and infrastructural projects. The United Nations Security Council (December 1991) has made unsuccessful overtures to the West for technical and financial assistance to Iran.5

The support of local citizens has been crucial to fighting the war and rebuilding ravaged communities. During the war's early years there was great popular enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution, and citizens were willing to take the lead in reconstructing houses and public facilities. This spirit continues even after the war's end: it is reflected in recommendations of the Council of Policy Making for Reconstruction. In 1988, the Council, acting on recommendations from the late Ayatollah Khomeini, outlined its Directive on the Comprehensive National Reconstruction Plan. The Directive called for a reconstruction strategy that is founded on the capabilities of people in wartorn areas, and that stresses the importance of "observing the cultural, traditional, and psychological characteristics of the people in each area...." (Amirahmadi 1990b: 247). Despite the emphasis on local initiatives, the government and social systems of Iran are centralized. The national government is wholly responsible for all reconstruction plans. It decides which productive centres are to be rebuilt, the pace of rebuilding, and land-use patterns.

Local participation was intended to be institutionalized by means of expanded provincial and municipal authorities, as well as town councils. However, there is no autonomous non-governmental agency that encourages grass-roots inputs. The national government's call for citizen participation in the rebuilding is a top-down management strategy, wherein the central authority makes the important decisions about a wide range of matters, including how to refashion cities, reinvigorate local industry, and create postwar local administrations. Over time, the government has also redefined local participation in terms of increasing privatization of the public sector by means of various incentive packages. Consequently, the claim that residents of warafflicted areas will be involved in the rebuilding process has a hollow ring, except in the case of private housing reconstruction. With the adoption of free market mechanisms as the ultimate arbiters of reconstruction, community members become involved in the process only to the extent that they provide the human capital necessary for economic growth and restructuring. The government does, however, continue to provide materials to individuals wishing to rebuild. Compensation of victims for losses incurred during the war is viewed as essential for maintaining popular support of the regime.

Owners are responsible for the design and reconstruction of their own units. The Director of the Provincial Reconstruction Office may, at his discretion, assist an owner with up to 180 square metres of roof coverage. An owner may be also assisted by bank loans. For urban commercial establishments, the government pays up to 1.5 million rials and assists the owner with bank loans. For rebuilding and renovating production units, the government pays up to 6 million rials and provides construction materials at official prices. Other government assistance includes bank loans and provision of foreign exchange to be used for purchase of machinery and equipment. The government also reimburses private victims for a long list of damaged items, ranging from agricultural products and palm trees to animals and private vehicles. Building permits and access to water and electricity are also provided free of charge. The Reconstruction Organization is responsible for clearing and removal of debris at no cost to owners. Finally, the government sells the following seven "basic" household items to war migrants who are returning to villages: machine-made carpet; refrigerator; black and white television; stove; kitchen ware and plates; sewing machine, and fan.

Urban reconstruction

Cities are being reconstructed on their previous sites and with an eye toward modernization. While mixed land uses are maintained in most cases, industrial and commercial zones are separated from residential areas. This has led to significant changes in landholding patterns within reconstructed urban settlements. Attempts are being made to enforce Islamic building codes and architecture, but without much success. A new urban strategy is now in place. It focuses first on the reconstruction of productive sectors of the economy and then on infrastructure, housing, and services as bottlenecks develop in those areas. The new strategy is intended to bring about a gradual repopulation of damaged settlements, adjusted to the rate at which housing and jobs are available.

In many places reconstruction has proceeded slowly and with considerable debate. For example, the rebuilding of Khorramshahr was slowed by disagreement about whether the city had lost its justification as a major port. Alternative ports had been developed elsewhere during the war, some on more strategically secure sites. When reconstruction began in some parts of Khorramshahr, original foundations were excavated in an attempt to confirm land ownership with survivors. The effort required to carry out such painstaking reconstruction was judged to be warranted by the psychological, social, and economic benefits that accrued from working closely with local residents (Zargar and Poor 1991).

Implementation of reconstruction plans begins when the Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent Society have finished disinfecting a wardamaged area. At that time an area manager is appointed to oversee the rebuilding of houses. He (invariably male) is the sole representative of the Housing Foundation in the locality and his decision may not be overturned by other public officials. However, the area manager must work within the framework of the relevant provincial development plan and coordinate his activities with provincial officials and activities. In addition to area managers, other agents involved in the task of housing reconstruction include owners of houses, Islamic Councils, auxiliary work groups, and provincial representatives of the Housing Foundation.

Housing reconstruction

The national government puts little money into the reconstruction of damaged houses. Most government funds are invested in public services, site preparation, employment-generating productive activities, provision of construction materials, architectural design, technical supervision, and builder training. The government has adopted a "new town" development strategy and employs the "site and service provision" approach advocated by the World Bank. In rural areas, the Housing Foundation is primarily responsible for the quality of the construction materials and buildings.

Some financial assistance is available to home-builders: it can take the form of grants, credit, or bank loans. But the emphasis on self-help makes homeowners responsible for design and construction and encourages them to rely on local technology and resources.

Industrial reconstruction

Major economic enterprises and industries are responsible for reconstructing their respective facilities under the direction of the Ministry of Heavy Industries, the Ministry of (Light) Industries or the Ministry of Mines and Metals. Oil, gas, petrochemical industries, basic industries, firms producing construction materials, metal products, and basic needs consumer goods have been given top priority.

A committee first determines if a specific firm should be scrapped or rebuilt and whether its facilities warrant repair, replacement, or upgrading. Units that are unlikely to be rebuilt include those with more than 30 per cent damage, those technically too obsolete or too dependent, and units with little prospect for significant value-added capability. Attention is also paid to labour and financial markets, capital markets, production technology, inputs-outputs markets, trade prospects, management requirements and capabilities, and other necessary institutional arrangements. While these activities have been followed in the case of industrial rebuilding, the nation as yet does not have a clear industrial policy or a policy of industrial security in case of another war.

What this overview of post-war reconstruction shows is that industrial redevelopment is a priority of the Iranian government, but that there is little explicit concern for industrial safety as a planning criterion, for adding improved accident-prevention systems to the rebuilt industrial facilities, or for making other attempts to mitigate potential industrial disasters. Whereas peacetime industrial disasters have sometimes stimulated hazard-reduction legislation and other initiatives, one lesson of Iran's experience is that warrelated industrial disasters are not followed by such changes.

Conceptual framework for a model of post-war reconstruction and industrial hazard recovery

A reconstruction strategy
The reconstruction process

The best way to prevent war-related industrial disasters is to prevent wars from occurring in the first place. Obviously, it is too late to prevent the outbreak of hostilities between Iran and Iraq: the damage has already been done. Regrettably, similar situations are likely to arise in the future and there will continue to be a need for reconstruction in the wake of armed conflict. Figure 6.3 summarizes a framework for post-war reconstruction that is based on the Iranian experience. In the pages that follow, the most important elements of the framework are explained, with special attention to the recovery of industrial facilities that have been destroyed or damaged and of adjacent areas and populations that have been polluted.

A reconstruction strategy

The formulation of a post-war reconstruction strategy is bound to become the centre of fierce debate, for it must satisfy and cut across varying ideologies, social groups, time periods, and cultures. The chosen strategy will depend in large measure on the nature of the war itself and the extent of damage. Each nation must fashion its own national reconstruction strategy, but the Iranian experience can serve as a guide to issues and alternatives.

Fig. 6.3 Framework for post-war reconstruction

First and foremost, a reconstruction strategy must be versatile and flexible. This means that it must be broad enough to be usable by different sectors and different levels of political administration, and able to accommodate the changing mix of problems that arise at different stages of the reconstruction process. It must also be able to respond to the needs of different socio-economic groups and to focus resources on urgent problems that demand quick action (e.g. industrial hazards and associated contamination). The strategy must also strike a balance between competing demands for the immediate relief of destruction and the need to invest in activities that will eventually restore the country's long-term economic base. Typically, in the postwar atmosphere of economic austerity, many forces compete for scarce resources, and governments can be drawn into wasteful social projects that are attractive on political grounds.

In addition to these general principles, a reconstruction strategy should incorporate clear long-term goals. To ensure success, goals must be translated into clearly defined objectives that realistically take into account the society's resources, expectations, constraints, and capabilities. After an evaluation of these factors, a hierarchy of goals must be formed, based on a set of national priorities. In postwar societies these goals generally include restoration of human health and long-term habitability, reconstruction of the economy, rebuilding of national defence, rehabilitation of war-damaged areas, and the correction of social imbalances caused by war.6

National planning is based on an assumption that "the details" can be left to regional, local, or sectoral plans. But what happens when there is widespread localized destruction of industrial facilities that have the potential to create pervasive, long-running hazards for regions, countries, or the entire earth? Perhaps it will be necessary to devise new forms of national planning or to conceptualize local-national-global events and strategies in new ways. For the more focused task of industrial revival, such procedural approaches have to become even more specific, allowing for implementation of tasks relating to various resources and commodity markets, and organizational arrangements within and outside the industries. Participation of employees in the revival of industries is a critical need that may be met by organizing them in various consultative and executive bodies.

Implementation is better achieved if accompanied by well-defined and specific policies concerning environmental, economic, social, political, ideological, cultural, infrastructural, territorial, educational, technical, and legal changes. Environmental policies not only must take into consideration existing problems but also must address the future security of industrial plants and surrounding populations against internal and external hazards. Economic policies need to account for budget deficits incurred in a war effort, which generate inflation, unemployment, and poverty. The government must also be responsible for generating incentive packages that will induce the private sector to invest in productive activities, while at the same time curbing nonproductive uses of capital through selective measures such as taxes and cumbersome licensing requirements. The government could also seek out direct foreign investment for revitalizing industries.

Social policies must be directed toward the provision of basic needs in such areas as health, education, housing, and recreation, with explicit emphasis on services for those who were physically or mentally traumatized during the war. Housing policy is the most critical component of the government's social policy during reconstruction after the war: the housing sector normally receives the most damage and suffers from shortages even in peacetime. Implementing a policy that allows for a sustainable housing process is the most important aspect of a more effective social policy. Here, income generation should become the primary goal. Education policy plays a very significant role in reconstruction, particularly in the third world where professional and technical education levels remain low. A more effective education programme should be specifically directed at training policy makers, planners, managers, and local leaders, as well as toward transforming fighters into producers and polluters into environmentalists! Cultural policies are needed to maintain diversity and unity during the highly disruptive and transformative process of reconstruction.

After housing, infrastructure is the sector of society that is most severely affected by war. Therefore, the success of a reconstruction strategy hinges on well-designed infrastructural policies that take into account future needs of communities and strengthen linkages between them. Infrastructural policies are best implemented in conjunction with settlement policies. These can benefit from an integrated regional approach in which a hierarchy of rural and urban areas are linked together functionally, as well as by transportation and communication networks. Targeting specific cities as market centres or other functional centres may require restructuring of the pre-war urban system. Small-scale rural industries that stimulate the agricultural sector (e.g. food processing) could be linked to industries at higher levels of the territorial hierarchy.

An essential part of the implementation process is the codification of all the policies mentioned above, in the form of an appropriate legal framework. The reconstruction plan itself must be made into law if its implementation is truly to be carried out. Last, but by no means least, reconstruction strategy must deal with political issues that permeate every aspect of reconstruction: there is a great deal of potentially destructive ambiguity about the roles of post-war military forces, about factionalism, and about state-society relations. While democratization and public participation are the only means for creating political legitimacy, most post-war states are too fragile and unstable to allow for their implementation in the short term if they were not firmly entrenched in the political system before war began. Most post-war societies are characterized by political discord and national conflicts. In spite of this, there simply is no alternative to national reconciliation if reconstruction is to be implemented successfully.

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