EghtesadOnline: As the Iranian private sector has been allowed, for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to select its best exporters, both officials and senior business figures used the occasion on Monday to spur hopes for a brighter future for non-oil exports.
At an event organized by Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Trade–the country’s largest business assembly– the most successful exporters of Tehran Province were publicly announced and doted on by their peers.
The bosses of these 17 companies had exported the biggest amount of goods and services in the fiscal 2017-18 in sectors ranging from industries and agriculture to handicrafts and techno-engineering services.
In addition to the capital’s business leaders and some parliamentarians, the shindig was also attended by Tehran’s Governor General Mohammad Hossein Moqimi, Financial Tribune reported.
The ceremony was overshadowed by the latest figures showing Iran’s current-account deficit for the eight months to Nov. 21 hovering near a whopping $4 billion.
Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi, the vociferous chairman of Majlis Economic Commission, took the government to task during his address, sounding alarm that at the current pace, trade imbalance could climb to $6 billion by March 2018.
“The minister of industries should explain this growing deficit,” Pour-Ebrahimi said, while harshly criticizing the anemic performance of Iran’s diplomatic apparatus with regard to fostering commerce with overseas nations.
The lawmaker asked Tehran Chamber of Commerce to help his commission’s efforts to draw a blueprint for the country’s economic success overseas.
“We are having insignificant volumes of trade with countries such as Russia with which we are politically allied,” he said.
Pour-Ebrahimi also attacked the country’s financial system, saying that the current lending rates are no longer feasible and that, along with reduced deposit rates, the cost of finance should also come down.
In recent years, the country has become more alert to the necessity of weaning the country off its historic addiction to oil revenues and curbing the government’s role in the economy.
In fact, a big initiative has built around the concept of “Resistance Economy” first promulgated by the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to strengthen domestic production and cut reliance on oil.
However, the country faces a long and difficult road toward realizing those goals.
As mentioned by different speakers at the Monday event, Iran lags in many international rankings, including the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report–where Iran ranks 124th out of 190 countries–and the Global Competitiveness Report.
The country has set the goal of attracting $50 billion of foreign investment by 2021–a goal hobbled by Iran’s limited banking channels and a hostile US administration.
The Way Forward
Despite all the doom and gloom, participants at the economic bash are also hopefully looking forward to an improved business climate in the coming months and years.
It’s been two months since an economic deputy has been appointed at the Foreign Ministry to independently seek close commercial ties with countries with which Iran has strong ties.
According to Pour-Ebrahimi, the parliament has had a big role in pushing those reforms.
The lawmaker regretted the fact that until recently, Iranian diplomats had only been engaged in “political” or “security” issues.
Moqimi also pledged full support for endeavors to facilitate business conditions for exporters in Tehran Province.
According to official figures, the province’s exports at $9 billion account for 24.8 % of the country’s total exports.
Seyyed Kamal Seyyed Ali, the head of Export Guarantee Fund of Iran, also announced cutthroat discounts in its coverage fees for exporters and called on them to engage more with the export credit agency.
The agency also plans to introduce forex hedging and provide exporters with customs guarantees.
Masoud Khansari, the head of TCCIM, set the record straight by voicing the true requirements of accelerated growth: “We have to use the experiences of others to achieve our goals since we cannot afford to invent the wheel again. To this end, a smaller government and foreign investments are indispensible.”