TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's populist president is putting his 33-year-old Peugeot up for auction for a charity that funds housing projects for young people.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's move is seen as a bid to appeal to the young and attract attention to housing projects he espoused during his campaigns, promising to put a roof over the head of every poor Iranian.
Ahmadinejad had made a point of being seen in the gleaming white Peugeot 504 sedan when he was Tehran mayor and before becoming president in 2005. He has rarely used the car in the past years, probably because of security measures.
Though hardly a clunker, the 1977-make car will be up for grabs at an international auction in February in the southwestern city of Abadan, according to Asghar Parhizkar, head of the city's Arvand free trade zone.
Hopes are it will fetch more than the $2,000 such cars usually go for on the Iranian market.
Parhizkar told the official IRNA news agency that the auction will take place on the sidelines of an old-timers exhibition. He said the money raised will be allocated to the Mehr Housing Fund, a charity that funds youth housing.
Yet the auction will hardly distract Iranians from daily woes at a time when Ahmadinejad's cash-strapped government has slashed energy and food subsidies — a move that sent gasoline prices quadrupling and bed prices tripling almost overnight.
Lack of housing has always been a major concern in Iran, where 25 percent of the 75 million population lives in rented apartments and nearly a third of a family's income goes to pay the rent.
Official statistics say the government has built more than 140,000 housing units in the first half of 201l. It has promised to build nearly 1 million units by March 2011.