Somayeh Mirashe, German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS), Bonn

Targeted Subsidies Policy in Iran and its contribution to social cohesion

Recent research indicates that Iranian society has been witnessing a decline in social cohesion in the past few decades, which poses a significant threat to the social life of the community. Several factors affect the reduction or increase of social cohesion. Among the most important of these factors are the government's social policies especially social protection policies such as subsidy policies. This Project aims to investigate whether government social policies, specifically the Targeted Subsidies Policy, have had a significant contribution to social cohesion in Iran, whether positively or negatively.

To address this question, the researchers have examined the posts and comments of Iranians expressed on Instagram over the period from Jan 2016 to the end of August 2022. These perspectives shed light on how citizens perceive the various components of social cohesion in relation to the government's Targeted Subsidies Policy. Furthermore, expert opinions have been analyzed and compared with the interpretations of citizens on social media to provide a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between subsidy targeting and social cohesion. This analysis has led to the construction of five main themes regarding subsidy targeting: 1) Shortterm policymaking, 2) Nation-state conflict, 3) Alignment with policy, 4) Mistargeting of subsidies, and 5) Dual interpretation of fair distribution. Based on these findings, the concept of " fragile social cohesion" has been introduced, by the authors to explain the current state of social cohesion in Iran in relation to the targeting of subsidies which refers to the gradual erosion of positive emotions stemming from the implementation of subsidy targeting in its early stages. Additionally, researchers have developed a three-dimensional model of social cohesion, including "vertical trust," "perceptions of inequality," and "social polarization."

Keywords: Subsidy targeting, short-term policymaking, social cohesion, social polarization, social protection, Nation-state conflict.