On April 29, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei highlighted the important role laborers play in Iran’s economy. In his address for International Labor Day, Khamenei called for resolving “problems such as delays in paying their salary, dismissals, problems related to providing and the like.” He also argued that sanctions, though effective in some respects, cannot stop a well-organized, national effort to boost domestic production. “The key to solving economic problems does not exist in Lausanne, Geneva and New York. It exists inside the country,” Khamenei said. The following are excerpts from his speech.
May 1, 2015
Today's meeting with you dear laborers from throughout the country is, in fact, a symbol of our respect for laborers. We have said and continue to say many things in this regard. Today too, we will discuss a number of issues, but the main point is that by holding this meeting, we want to show our respect for laborers and labor. We want to highlight - more than before - the significance of labor in our minds and in the minds of the people of Iran. We should pay attention that all great achievements are made in the shade of labor in its broad sense. Labor is valuable. Thanks to the value of labor, laborers are very valuable in society.
There is a well-known narration that the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.w.a.) kissed the hands of a laborer. This is not a mere formality. Rather, it is a lesson. Therefore, we want the value of labor to be appreciated. We want laborers to be respected. We want to draw officials' attention to matters related to laborers such as resolving the problems of laborers and their working environment. There are certain problems such as delays in paying their salary, dismissals, problems related to providing and the like. These are problems that exist at a public level and for the society of laborers. Officials should pay more attention to these matters. This is the purpose of our meeting.
What I feel is that from the beginning of the Revolution until today, laborers have really carried out valuable tasks for the country. These tasks are primarily related to the value of labor and laborers, secondly to their presence in difficult arenas of the country in the course of many years and thirdly to their refusal to be deceived by those who wanted to pit laborers against the Islamic Republic from the very first day. Laborers made this great self-sacrifice while they had many problems in different eras. So, laborers have emerged victorious out of this test.
As I said, the problems that exist are not solved by talking. It is necessary to take action and to show innovation. Second, the solution to the economic problems of the country should be found inside the country. Production is the spinal cord [of economy]. The spinal cord of the economy of resistance - which we have spoken about before - is strengthening domestic production. If this is done and if our effort is focused on this matter, then labor problems will gradually be solved, labor and laborers will become valuable, everyone will be employed and unemployment - which is a problem in our society - will gradually be reduced and removed. The main basis is production.
Some people might say that there are certain prerequisites for the issue of production which you always repeat and stress in your public speeches and in your meetings with officials. They might say that in the current conditions - sanctions and international pressures - it is not possible to boost and strengthen production. I do not deny that the unjust sanctions that the enemies of the people of Iran and the Revolution have imposed on our nation are not ineffectual. Without a doubt, they exert some influence, but I deny that these sanctions can prevent a public, well-organized and well-planned effort for boosting production. I do not agree with this. When I take a look at the country, I see that production has particularly increased in those areas where the enemies have exerted more pressures and imposed more sanctions. This has been achieved because of the efforts that officials and our enthusiastic laborers and youth made. I can witness this. It is in front of everyone's eyes.
Compare the present time with 15, 20 or even 10 years ago in terms of the country's achievement in the area of military products. We have made astonishing and mesmerizing achievements in the area of military products. This is while the enemies have exerted more sanctions on the military and these sanctions are not related to this year or last year. They have existed since long ago and they have exerted many pressures, but we made progress. We have also made many achievements in the area of biological sciences and biotechnology while the same restrictions and sanctions existed. Even some well-known universities in the world did not allow Iranian students to take these courses and to make progress in them. Despite what they did, the country has made outstanding and visible achievements in these sciences and everyone can witness them.
If those who are curious and want to have information in this regard- these are not confidential matters- they can obtain such information. Another achievement is in new sciences such as nanotechnology. These are among new technologies in the world and no one has helped us in them. From now on too, they are not going to help us. We are advanced in such sciences. Our experts, our youth, our researchers and our scientists are working on them and making great efforts. They have made eye-catching achievements in such areas.
They are also working on knowledge-based industries. Recently, an exhibition was held in this Hussainiyah and I met with the youth who are active in these industries. I also visited the different divisions of knowledge-based companies. Of course, I was already aware of their activities and I had received certain reports, but I got a chance to see these people up close. They are making great efforts and moving forward. Today, we have made much progress in the area of knowledge-based companies compared to 10, 15 years ago. All these achievements have been made while we were under sanctions. But if the cruel sanctions of the enemies had not existed, it would have been possible for us to even make more progress. We do not deny this. Of course, there is another probability. We might have shown negligence by ignoring the needs of the country. We might have attended to affairs - by relying on the money that we received from oil, imports and other such things - that do not bring about any progress for the country. This was also possible.
We should really pay attention to the fact that part of our achievements was made due to the obstacles that foreigners created for us. We should appreciate the value of this. They did not give us anything and we had to act on our own. When the path of importation becomes wide open and when we import whatever we like, then our desire for self-indulgence draws us towards laziness and idleness. This is another side of the matter. Therefore, when I place emphasis on the issue of production, some people should not say that production is not possible under severe and strict sanctions. This is not the case. It is possible to do so. Whatever you decide to do will be possible if you show determination, bring all your power to the arena and ask Allah the Exalted for His help and guidance. We have tested this.
In the present time, we play a leading role in the world in some industries. One example is in the area of building dams. Who in the world helped us reach this point in the area of building dams? Today, Iran is among leading countries in this area. Some companies in western countries build dams at an enormous cost. If Iranian youth were in charge, they would build much better dams at much lower costs. This is an area in which we have made progress. Who helped us in the course of these long years? The same is true of the nuclear issue and many other issues.
I believe that the economic problems of the country - the most important of which are matters related to laborers and their unemployment and living problems - will be solved if the issue of production receives attention. We receive and read certain reports about these problems, but attention to production will create job opportunities and it will engender a feeling of dignity and self-reliance. When a country relies on its domestic capabilities, it will feel self-reliant. In the process of becoming self-reliant, we may want to resolve tens of matters with the world, but our power or weakness will make a huge difference when we are at the negotiating table. When you feel powerful, you negotiate in a certain way. When you feel weak, you will negotiate in a completely different way. If the domestic structure of power is solid and firm in all areas - including the economy - then we can negotiate with different sides over all matters. In order to do so, we should negotiate with the other side in a powerful way, not in a way that it displays our needs. This will embolden the enemy and it will encourage him to set terms and say a load of nonsense all the time. I find the cure in this. I say - I said it in the beginning of the year as well - that everyone should focus all their efforts on the issue of production.
Of course, this has certain prerequisites. Investors, laborers, consumers and governmental organizations have certain responsibilities. This task is not an individual one. Everyone should cooperate. When we speak about the people's harmony and unanimity with the administration, this is what it means. It means that everyone should cooperate so that they can clear the path of the country from this big boulder [blocking the path].
Investors and those who are well-to-do should invest. I knew some individuals who could have invested their money in lucrative businesses which were not related to production, but they did not do so. They said, "We will not do this because we want to render services to the country". They invested in production with less profit because they understood that the country needs it. Well, this is an act of worship. An investor who thinks about the needs of the country, who does not invest his money in speculation or lucrative but harmful businesses and who invests it in production instead is doing a very good deed. Therefore, investors play a major role.
Hardworking laborers play a role as well. A laborer who endures the difficulty of work and who dedicates his life, his time and his energy to working properly is, in fact, worshipping God. Work is difficulty anyway. Physical work is a difficult task in life. In my meetings with you dear ones, I have repeatedly cited this narration from the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.): "God bless those who take on a responsibility and do it appropriately". May God show mercy on those who work properly, whether industrial, agricultural or different other types of labor. When work is done properly, one's product will turn out to be perfect. This is the role of laborers which is an act of worship.
Fair-minded and conscientious consumers can also help the production of the country. They should not look for famous products and brands only. Some people constantly speak about brands. They should not look for brands and popular models in the world. They should pay attention to the interests of the country. The interests of the country lie in consuming domestic products and helping Iranian laborers. There are some people who chant slogans in favor of laborers and they make extravagant claims, but in practice, they are kicking Iranian laborers. Kicking Iranian laborers means refusing to use the products that our laborers manufacture. It means using foreign products which are sometimes much more expensive.
In some industries, we are among leading countries in the world, but some people import the same products from outside the country. This is the responsibility of everyone including the administration. The honorable Minister of Labor is present here. I request that you bring this up and insist on it in the administration. Those products and goods that governmental organizations need and use should not at all be brought from outside the country. This is a major and great matter. Considering the vast scope of its activities, the administration is a number one consumer. Executive officials should not say, "We need such and such a thing urgently, but it does not exist in the country. Therefore, we should bring it from outside the country".
Well, do you not plan? If you need it urgently, why do you say it now? You should have said it two years ago so that domestic manufactures would have enough time to plan and to build and test it. This way, you could have it today. These are important, not minor, issues. The administration should prevent itself from using those foreign products which can be manufactured inside the country, ranging from pens and paper on your desks to building materials and other products. It should consider this haraam for itself. Government officials should prevent self-indulgence, the desire for ease and comfort- these are the least of problems that exist- and, God forbid, abuse.
We have experienced, tested and witnessed this. Once - many years ago - a task was being carried out in the country. They were building something. I summoned the officials in charge and I asked them not to use any foreign product in what they were doing. They promised to do so and they kept their promise honorably. When we received a report and carried out an investigation in the end, we found out that 98 percent of the materials were produced inside the country. Only two percent did not exist in the country and they imported it. Well, this is possible. So, consumers are one of the major bases of strengthening and promoting domestic products.
Another major base is the system of combating smuggling. We have placed great emphasis on combating smuggling. Different administrations have come and gone in the course of these years [but they did not attend to this matter]. Well, this is something that should be done and it is possible. They should not say that it is not. It is completely possible. They should prevent smuggling in a very decisive way. Once I said that the administration should not only pursue the issue of smuggling in our borders. Today, billions of dollars are being allocated to smuggling. Because they release many different figures, I cannot exactly say how much. You should pursue smuggling before and when they enter our borders and when they find their way into shops. This is a very important matter and task. Those who are working on it are doing jihadi work and worshipping God as well. This is also among good religious deeds.
Another important pillar are import-control organizations. These organizations should adopt a careful outlook as well. There are some affairs which are not in the hands of the administration. These tasks are carried out by the private sector and there is no other option. However, governmental organizations can manage them with supervision. They should act in a way that the issue of importation does not harm domestic production.
Another issue is the responsibility of promotional organizations and the media. The media can play a role as well. The IRIB and other media should work, in the real sense of the word, on promoting domestic products. All these tasks are effective.
Another issue is the stability of laws. This is the responsibility of the Majlis. They should take care not to change laws related to economic matters - such as matters related to labor - on a daily basis so that it is possible to plan.
The cultural officials of the country too should plan cultural work. They should criticize idleness, laziness and avoidance of hard work. Hard work should be endured. If we do not endure hard work, we do not get anywhere. We should not like easy work only. We should endure hard work, wherever it exists. Those who managed to reach a peak in industry, technology and scientific matters imposed hard work on themselves. This requires creating a culture. If we only want to do easy work, things will not move forward.
Officials in charge of combating corruption have a role as well. Corruption is frequently spoken about, but this is of no use. If we only shout "thief, thief", thieves do not stop their work. We should enter the arena. The officials of the country are not journalists. It is journalists in newspapers who speak about corruption. You and I who are officials should take action. Why so much talk? You should enter the arena. If we know how to act, we should combat corruption in the real sense of the word.
These are our responsibilities. These are the responsibilities of our different sectors. This is the cure for solving the economic problems of the country. If we want to solve the economic problems of the country, we should focus on production. Everyone is responsible in the way that we explained. Of course, some responsibilities are heavier and some are lighter, but everyone is responsible in some way. The key to solving economic problems does not exist in Lausanne, Geneva and New York. It exists inside the country. If everyone works hard and shows diligence, problems will -by Allah's favor - be solved. The people of Iran and the officials of the country have accomplished even greater feats in the course of these years. So, they can also resolve the issue of production. The current administration is thankfully working hard in an enthusiastic way. There are a number of well-informed individuals in the administration. They should make efforts, work hard and pursue the matter. By Allah's favor, they should solve problems.
To be fair, the society of laborers in our country is a noble society. The society of our laborers is a noble society. I was completely aware of the efforts that were made - from the very first day of the Revolution and even before the decisive victory of the Revolution - to pit laborers against the Revolution. I was aware of and I witnessed these efforts during the time of those astonishing rallies and demonstrations in the year 1357. I witnessed these efforts up close. The same effort has been made in the course of many years. Even during my presidency and after that, there were some people who wanted to pit laborers against the Islamic Republic, but our laborers have endured problems and shown resistance with complete power, stability and modesty. This is very valuable.
The officials of the country should appreciate the value of these great laborers who endure problems and who work hard. The reward for this nobility of character is that everyone should work hard so that by Allah's favor, they can solve their problems. Allah the Exalted too will definitely help those who have good intentions, who do good work and who move towards good goals.
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