Tax Policies of Gen. Naguib and Dr. Mossadegh
August 14, 1952 — James Marlow

The Mossadegh Project | June 19, 2013     

Widely syndicated Associated Press column "The World Today" by James Marlow (1904-1968) — Thursday, August 14, 1952. Other headlines for this piece as published in various newspapers included:

Two New Regimes Hit Rich Landlords
Egypt, Iran Sock Rich Landowners Same Day
Rich Egyptians and Iranians Run Afoul of Social Reforms
Rich of Egypt, Iran Are Near Tax Troubles — Rulers Cutting Into Coffers Of Wealthy To Aid Poor Tenant Farmers

The World Today
Rich Men of Iran, Egypt
Have Felt Ire of Population


James Marlow WASHINGTON (AP) — The rich men of Iran and Egypt had been blocking progress from time immemorial and then, astonishingly, they got their come-uppance in both places on the same day this week.

In Egypt Maj. Gen. Mohammed Naguib, who tossed out King Farouk, decided the estates of the rich should be broken up and divided among the poor.

And in Iran, Premier Mohammed Mossadegh, the mooner and moaner, decreed that the rich who have been paying no taxes, should not only pay some but divide their profits with the poor.

Reforms Needed

There was nothing new about the realization that social reforms were needed in both countries. They had been talked about for years. But the rich, who ran the governments, kept them strictly in the talking stage.

Because past promises and plans have been unfulfilled, the rest of the world can be excused if it waits a little dubiously to see whether this time the promises become a reality.

Programs Not Alike

And there is a noticeable difference between the reforms proposed by the general and the premier. Naguib’s plans call for taking land from the rich to give to the poor. News from Iran doesn’t indicate Iran intends to split up estates.

In Iran a relatively few rich families control the wealth and the land. Some of them own hundreds of villages with the surrounding land worked by peasants as sharecroppers.

Mossadegh Is Rich

Mossadegh, himself one of the big landowners and never distinguished for reforms in his property, was pushed into his present proposal be necessity: An economic jam and the Communists breathing down his neck.

When he kicked the British out of the oilfields more than a year ago, Iran lost a third of its revenue. Gradually the country ran deeper in the red. Iran has tax laws. The rich made a joke of them.

Parliament could have made up the difference between government expenses and revenue by soaking the rich with a stiff tax law and making them pay. It didn’t. The rich controlled Parliament.

Things got worse. If there was successful Communist revolt, the rich wouldn’t have to worry about paying taxes. They wouldn’t have any money to pay. In desperation this week the Parliament made Mossadegh dictator for six months. He went to work in a hurry.

He ordered the landlords to turn 10 per cent of their income from estates to the sharecroppers. They must also deposit in special banks another 10 per cent of their cash income for the aid of needy farmers.

Tax on Landlords

That will help the peasants but it won’t help pay the government’s bills. So Mossadegh is reported ready to tap the rich in another way, too: A two per cent tax on landlords.

When he scuttled Farouk, Naguib picked as his civilian premier, Aly Maher.When Maher this week suggested only mild reforms, Naguib stepped in to say what he wanted done fast.

According to reports from Egypt, this is it: No individual or company can own more than 200 acres of farm land. The state would take the rest, pay the owners but at the prices of 13 or 14 years ago, and redistribute the land among the landless poor and the peasants holding less than two acres.

Installment Plans

Those receiving the land would pay the government for it over 30 years in annual installments at low interest rates. Without such rates, land redistribution would be a joke. In the Middle East the usual interest rates are notorious, running as much as 100 per cent.

In Egypt, with a population of 20 million, about one-half of one per cent own 30 per cent. The other 94 per cent own the rest, with millions owning nothing. In Egypt the per capita income is less than $100.

Related links:

U.S. Not Loaning, Iran Chief MoaningThe World Today, November 15, 1951

Trying Mossadegh's TacticsUnited Press, July 31, 1956

Iran Brew Begins To Boil OverInterpreting the News - December 8, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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