With Iran's revolutionary euphoria wearing off by the day, the Islamic Republic is having to grapple with some of the same economic conditions that contributed to the downfall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
But while some of the problems have been inherited from the old government, others are the result of revolutionary incompetence and greed.
Not the least of the paradoxes in Iran these days is the fact that the government is awash with oil money but dosen't know how to spend it. In addition to this lack of economic direction, the government's inefficient poorly run ministries and other bureaucracies are proving largely incapable of administering the programs they have.
Indicative of the government's predicament is the $33.6 billion budget announced this week. Down sharply from the last annual budget under the shah, it provides for a 27 percent cut in development spending -- even though it estimates oil income at the same $20-billion-a-year clip as before. And that revenue figure inexplicably falls more than $5 billion short of calculations of Iran's oil earnings by independent experts taking into account the latest series of petroleum price increases.
Some analysts conclude that Iran may further reduce its oil exports -- already down by more than a third from previous levels -- in a move that would put new pressure on world supplies and prices.
For a government that has to make excuses to the people for its own wealth the current administrative paralysis amounts to a veritable time bomb. If it continues, some economists say, the new government could succumb to the same economic ills -- growing unemployment, unfulfilled expectations, disparity of wealth and corruption -- that fueled last year's upheavals against the monarchy.
"We're sitting on a volcano," a Western banker said. "This revolution was based on the gap between economic reality and expections, and that hasn't changed."
Potentially more disastrous for Iran's economy in the long run than the current high unemployment are the mounting demands of public and private sector workers for increased wages, greater benefits and participation in management. Combined in many cases with the lack of work dicipline, these demands have complicated the revival of various industries and firms.
Many companies that have not been able to resume full operations are getting into deep financial trouble because armed revolutionary committees have prevented them from laying off workers or, in some cases have forced them to rehire employes fired in the past.
A recent survey of member companies of theIran America Chamber of Commerce in Tehran concluded that "the ranks of the unemployed will be swelled in the near future as these companies either fold or have to reduce the number of workers because they can no longer meet pay rolls. Thus the unemployment situation can only be expected to deteriorate yet further."
Adding to the problem has been the departure of thousands of foreign businessmen, technicians and other workers here.
The revolutionaries regarded most foreigners as unwelcome carpetbaggers who unsurped Iranian jobs. But in many cases qualified Iranians simply could not be found to take over the positions the foreigners vacated. And each time a foreign businessman left, several Iranians -- including secretaries office workers, drivers and maids -- were thrown out of work.
Far from creating more employment for Iranians, getting rid of the foreigners has actually cost thousands of jobs.
In an effort to raise the Iranian economy out of its present morass the government in May put together a package of credits, allocating $600 million to help troubled factories resume production and $142 million to stimulate agriculture.
So far, however, this credit program does not seem to have been implemented in any effective way.
"The pervasive problem is lack of discipline," an economist said. "It goes all through the civil service and the private sector. Until this is solved there's not going to be a resumption of work. It doesn't do any good to feed credit to a system that can't execute anything."
A banker said industrialists often tell him they have not been able to meet their financial obligations because they spend all their time trying to placate rebellious workers who have unrealistic expectations under the new government.
"One hundred percent wage increase demands are not unusual," the banker said. "In addition, workers want housing, more meal allowances, longer vacations, profit sharing and say they want to run the company.
"Even in the best of times firms couldn't make good on such expectations. But for the firms, these are the worst of times. If the labor force remains in a state of rebellion like this, it's going to sink a lot of companies."
Already an estimated 80 percent of Iranian construction firms are not operating and a third of the service industries are out, according to economist here.
In many cases employes have refuesed to work until their demands are met, or have formed workers' committees that effectively stymie operations.
Backed by sympathetic militiamen, some works whose firms are force to close have been demanding and getting 10 months' severance pay, even those employed as little as a year. In a number of cases, foreign managers have been held for ransom by revolutionary committees which either take them hostage or seize their passports until large sums of money are handed over.
Businessmen have also reported cases of employess turning up to demand severance pay although they left the company years ago. Some take a cut of the pay for backing a worker's demand.
Other major problems have been the government's failure so far to inject sufficient funds into the economy and difficulties in obtaining industrial raw materials from abroad.
"The problem is not lack of foreign exchange," a banker said. "The government has it running out of its ears. The problem is translating that foreign exchange into local currency." 4tWith Iran's oil revenue pilling up foreign exchange reserves are estimated to have jumped considerably above the $10 billion officially estimated when the new government took power.
That would be an enviable position if authorities knew what to do with the money. The options are limited by government policies aimed at reducing imports and dependence on foreign suppliers, the chaotic state of local industries and the reluctance of potential investors.
On top of this, the across-the-board wage increases of up to 50 percent that were doled out by the previous government in an effort to placate opposition now threaten to fuel an inflation rate that is currently running more than 30 percent.
Faced with all these considerations, many businessmen doubt that the nationalization of banks last month will result in the economic revitalization that the government planned.
So far the Central Bank, still struggling with internal policy disputes, has not been pumping into the economy the liquidity needed to galvanize industries, although this was assumed to be a main objective of nationalizing the banks.
"The function of authority throughout government and businesss is shattereo and economic recovery will be slow," said a recent trade, forecast compiled by a Western embassy here. "In a word, the trade outlook fo Iran in 1979 is bleak. CAPTION: Picture, Marxist guerrilla sympathizers, increasingly critical of the government under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, listen to speakers at a Tehran rally Friday. AP