TBY talks to HE Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
TBY How would you characterize the stable and dynamic aspects of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s place in the fast-changing political and economic order of the world?
DR. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD Everyone knows that the land of Iran is the birthplace of a great civilization, having a historical background of over 7,000 years and being a civilization based on humane and divine values. Monotheism, respect for the rights of nations, and a rejection of the slavery and bondage of mankind are among the key features of Iranian civilization. After the coming of Islam, Iran’s civilization, on the basis of Islamic culture and education, grew faster and experienced further expansion, achieving great ratings in the fields of monotheism and the belief in one God, literature and the arts, logic and philosophy, science and technology, mathematics and astrology, medicine, physics, chemistry, ethics, and human sciences, and it has introduced great scientists and provided many services to humanity as a whole.
During recent centuries, and especially over the course of the last century due to the consequences of aggression, war making, violations, and the avarice of oppressors, the forward movement of our nation encountered obstacles and hurdles. However, the cultural and intellectual foundation of our nation, through the endeavor and hard work of its wise and compassionate people, remained immune, leading the Iranian nation to the year 1357 (1978). In that year, under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, the monotheist, brave, wise man that lived a simple life and served the people, the Islamic Revolution in Iran began. The dictatorship, which through the support of the colonial powers, was overwhelming Iran, was toppled, and independence, freedom, and a governing system based on the votes of the people and the principles of Islam was established in our country.
Despite confronting international avarice, the eight-year Imposed War, threats, and unlawful sanctions, the Iranian nation proudly flies the flag of dignity, independence, and progress, and has bravely resisted all aggressions and disagreements and is removing all barriers in its way.
The nation of Iran looks for peace, justice, dignity, and advancement for all nations. It respects all human beings and propagates love, affection, and friendship.
Fortunately, the Islamic Republic of Iran has friendly and brotherly relations with all the nations and governments of the world, always insisting on the enhancement of relations based on justice, mutual respect, friendliness, and brotherhood, while standing firm against international avarice and expansionism and confronting aggression, occupation, and those who choose to deny the rights of nations.
Today, the nations of the world, and a majority of their governments, support the fair, just, and humanitarian stances of the Islamic Republic of Iran and see themselves on the side of the Iranian nation. This context is an advantageous opportunity to pave the way for the development and advancement of all nations through cooperation and concerted action.
Could you explain Iran’s growing ties with the economies of Asia and the Pacific and the importance of these increasingly privileged relationships for the Iranian economy?
We, as an Asian country, belong to the Asian civilization, which is the root of human civilization. Our destinies are interlocked. The development of each of us means the development of the others, and if any harm comes to any of us, the others suffer as well. There are numerous reasons why Asian countries should stay together. None of us are expansionist, avaricious, or greedy. Our cultures share values such as humanity, love, affection, justice, and brotherhood. All of us confront insecurity, war, and terrorism. Over the course of recent years, it was made clear that the international economic system is not based on justice, and revolves around the benefits that some certain capitalistic countries derive. It is not only incapable of serving the economic interests of the nations, but also causes the spilling over of crises from high-risk countries and their shaky capitalistic systems to our countries. This bitter and costly experience proves that we should depend on ourselves and look to each other more than before.
Mutual, multilateral, and regional cooperation may play a key role in dynamic economic growth, bringing security and stability to countries.
For the time being, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relations with the countries of Central Asia, our neighbors, and those countries located in east and southeast Asia as well as plenty of other Asian countries, bilaterally, multilaterally, or through organizations such as ECO and COMCEC, are strong, and developing. Trade, technology transfer, the financing of industrial, agricultural, and energy projects, the implementation of joint touristic projects and so on are among the economic benefits that these relations deliver to us.
What has been the impact of changing political relations with the EU—a key trading partner—on EU-Iran economic relations?
Iran’s foreign policy is based on the principles of justice, friendship, mutual respect, and the maintenance of human dignity. The relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the governments who apply these principles shall be robust and good. The experience of the recent decades shows that, unfortunately, some European governments, under the influence of the international oppressors, with the Zionist regime at the top of them, are not allowed to establish fair and friendly relations.
Of course, the unfair behavior of some Europeans shall be to the detriment of themselves. They think the world is limited to Europe. The world is much bigger than the mentality and ideas of some. Although the market share of European companies in Iran has increased in the current year, in comparison to the rapid growth of Iran’s foreign trade, it is declining and Asian countries are quickly replacing them. Europe’s share in Iran’s oil exports remains fixed, while in the non-oil sector Asian countries, especially our neighbors, have surpassed countries such as Germany and Italy. In the imports sector, the UAE, China, and South Korea have enhanced their ranking when compared to Europe in their levels of foreign trade with Iran.
At present, many American and European companies struggle to get around the obstacles and sanctions to work with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
What is your evaluation of the performance of the Iranian economy under your direction, the domestic and international factors influencing this performance, and your assessment of the path ahead?
To improve the efficiency of the Iranian economy, there are transformations and reforms underway in seven fields within the framework of the General Policies of the System and the Twenty-Year Vision. The consequences of such transformations include the establishment of more justice in the distribution of resources; the growth of talents and capabilities; further price transparency; the greater participation of the people and private sector, whether domestic or foreign, in the economy; the prevention of resource waste; a smaller bureaucracy; and enhancing competitiveness and the like.
The reforms underway include those of the tax system, the improvement of the banking system, goods distribution channels, the customs system, the national currency value, the subsidy system, and productivity.
The first step in targeting subsidies was successfully taken and the management and strength of the Iranian nation was well demonstrated during this great effort. Our experience in targeting subsidies is an outstanding achievement that can be an example to other countries. This act was conducted while Iran was under the heaviest of international sanctions. This matter is proof that the impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy is trifling. The second is that Iran’s system has the highest level of stability and strength, and enjoys the support of the people as it continues its advancement and progress.
How do you see Vision 2025 and other related policies creating a more efficient Iranian economy?
Through diversification in production, transition to a global economy, privatization, and reorganization of the capital markets Iran is vastly improving its productivity.
A portion of the resources originating from making the prices of energy carriers real shall be allocated to producers in different sectors in the form of concessional loans or government grants in order to raise productivity. Market competitiveness shall become more transparent and the investments made by domestic or foreign investors in projects shall be streamlined. Today, Iran’s capital markets are among the most prosperous and successful securities and exchange markets in the world. The indexes have improved dramatically and no sign of economic crisis or the crises of the world securities and exchange markets can be seen in the Iran securities and exchange markets, providing a good opportunity for foreign investors and clients to do business in this market. The securities market for oil products and petrochemicals is already active, and soon the securities and exchange mechanism for the oil market will be brought into operation.
The absence of some foreign investors resulted in $50 billion worth of gas production projects in the southern part of Iran being awarded to domestic contractors. The volume of investment in energy projects is ramping up, while in other sectors of the industry some other projects are ready to be awarded to investors and contractors. The Twenty-Year Vision Document is a milestone on the road to achieving broader horizons, and it is of course based on justice and the respect of the rights of nations in international relations. As I said before, at present international relations are to the detriment of nations, increasing poverty and widening the gap between affluent and impoverished countries. The relations of international institutions and financial organizations need to undergo fundamental changes, while institutions such as the US Federal Reserve, which empty the pockets of nations through the issuance of unregulated paper assets, need to be restricted in their actions. Regional convergence, defining new Asian shared values, making transactions through national currencies, enhancing banking and monetary relations, and eliminating the US dollar as a means of transaction could be a big help in implementing fundamental changes in the international economic system and in enhancing domestic and regional economies.
Which sectors and areas have been most affected by international sanctions, and what measures have been taken to alleviate the impact of the sanctions regime?
The literature of sanctions belongs 30 years in the past. The period when the Americans regarded themselves as masters of the world has passed. We have plenty of opportunities available. We advised them not to implement such sanctions, and if they continue we will create new independent relations in the world. Even now there are many nations and governments who are interested in the establishment of relations independent of the great powers, and this will happen. We maintained our high economic growth over the course of the last year, when we were under sanctions, and growth will occur this year too. These things make nations more determined, and provide new chances for the success of our nation. There is a characteristic of the Iranian nation that, if not unique then at least uncommon, and that is its ability to turn threats into opportunities. The Iranian nation takes the most severe threats and then through its civilizational and cultural mechanisms changes them into tremendous opportunities. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been under the sanctions of its enemies for the last 32 years, and the sanctions have not had any influence on the will and determination of the Iranian nation. The people of Iran reached new peaks of progress and advancement during the sanctions, conquering new peaks of knowledge. The sanctions taught the Iranian nation to rely on its own resources and capacities more than ever before, the results of which have been seen in different scientific, research, and industrial achievements. Other countries can benefit from these advances as well. Meanwhile, foreign investment has experienced impressive growth. The only impact of sanctions was on increasing solidarity and expediting our growth rate.
How do you interpret the role of foreign investment in fostering change and increasing the performance of the Iranian economy?
Foreign investment has played, and continues to play a key role in the country’s Fourth and Fifth Five-Year Development Plans (FYDPs). Regarding the target of 8% economic growth, the role of foreign investment shall especially be taken into consideration. Based on the existing laws, the treatment of foreign investors shall be the same as for domestic investors and no discrimination will apply; their security is also guaranteed. Fortunately, the growth rate of foreign investment in Iran, when compared to other countries, is at the highest of levels.
How is Iran moving to produce a young, forward-looking nation? What reforms do you consider necessary to develop the nation’s human capital and increase the collaboration between the worlds of academia and business?
The youth of a nation is key to the development of its innovativeness, freshness, and creativity. In addition, the middle-aged and elderly have also taken deep and unique steps. The Islamic Revolution was a result of the faith, hard work, and creativity of our youth. The same goes for our victory in the holy defense, which in the eyes of all the politicians of the world was something unachievable. Another miracle of youth is currently underway. Our nation, in order to achieve its worthy position in the world and in the scientific, technical, and cultural relations of the globe, needs the innovative, productive, and courageous presence of the youth, and this is being realized.
The government is being decisive in its support of the endeavors of the youth to foster their talent and abilities for the development of the country. The enhancement of universities and research institutes, creating appropriate opportunities in all scientific, research, and technical fields, providing easy financial resources, and encouraging innovative and creative young people are among the measures being taken. The worthy achievements of Iran in different industries, such as oil and gas, nuclear energy, aerospace, and so on is indebted to the youth of this land, and this journey will continue.
How do you see the future of Iran as “the economic, scientific, and technological leader of Southwest Asia” as stated in the Vision 2025 development plan?
In the vision for the year 1404 (2025), Iran, based on its culture, science, and spirituality, should stand first in the region in all economic, cultural, scientific, and political aspects. The government and nation of Iran are moving in the same direction and great scientific, industrial, and political advances are happening fast. The Islamic Republic of Iran, relying on its civilization and cultural foundations, notwithstanding the contradictions and preventive acts of arrogant exploiters, can compensate for its previously imposed backwardness very quickly. The victory of the Islamic Revolution, and the faith, resistance, insight, and purity of the Iranian nation has provided it with an exceptional opportunity. In a time that the big powers of both the East and West have reached the end of the line and global relations are at the threshold of a great transformation, the Iranian nation will continue its route of advancement, and physical and spiritual progress through its best endeavors.
The current period is a new chapter in the life of the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation has always been the standard bearer of peace, brotherhood, love, and affection, wishing prosperity, peace, security, and friendliness to all. Regarding the general move of the world towards justice, purity, love, and affection, there is the growing hope that cruelty, aggression, poverty, discrimination, and enmity will come to an end, being replaced by justice, purity, and affection all over the world, and that all peoples will be able to enjoy the rulership of righteous and divine governments.
© The Business Year