Iran: Industrial Development and Investment Opportunities

Various investment opportunities in the newly opening economy of Iran were discussed "Iran Business Symposium" (Feb 21-23, 2017) held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Ms. Afsaneh Shafiei, a senior researcher in Institute for Trade Studies and Research, discussed some facts on Iran's economy and its structural dynamism within the recent decade. Iran as an Energy Superpower, she said, is not only becoming relatively diverse and more reliant on services and industry sectors, but also it is experiencing a new dynamism towards increasing the contribution of Medium and High-tech products. In this respect, she compared the $12.1 billion value of Medium and High-tech exports in 2014 with that of 2004 which equaled $1.5 billion. In other words, there is an up surging contribution of sectors with higher level of technology. In this context, the soaring number of knowledge firms from 52 in 2014 to 2732 in 2016 (accounting for around 70.000 jobs and $ 6.6 billion in revenues) shows that there is a strong structural dynamism in Iranian economy, especially after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  

At the second part of her speech, Ms. Shafiei distinguished between Iran's current economic top sectors and some other sectors which could be regarded as new sources of latent comparative (or even competitive) advantages. In fact, she noted, there are some resource-based sectors like oil and gas, mining or even upstream petrochemicals that have long been most attractive for investors. However, such activities could not be the sustainable sources of economic surplus unless investors move forward downstream production. In this respects, she defined how beneficial it would be to invest in steel products like stainless steel as well as casting steel than just focusing on crude steel. As another example, she compared how return on polypropylene compounds distinguishes from methane in petrochemical sector. 

In the last part of the speech, some activities with latent comparative advantage in Iran were introduced. For instance, there is food and beverage as a light industry and which needs to be strengthened with export-oriented investment to take full advantage of its potentialities. As another example, pharmaceutical production enjoys a progressive trend in Iran, but needs to be reinforced with new technologies. The other case is related to knowledge-based activities with a special focus on biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as advanced manufacturing equipment laboratory or even optics.  

The final message emphasized in the symposium was that those instances of investment and economic cooperation that are accompanied by major transformation, operational efficiency or modernizing elements are welcomed.  

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