GLOBAL REACH

TBY talks to Gholamhossein Shafei, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines & Agriculture (ICCIMA), on encouraging economic activity, the Ten-Year Plan, and plans for the longer term.

Through which structures does ICCIMA serve its members?

ICCIMA is the biggest official organization in Iran working under the laws passed by the Iranian parliament. We hold several elections after which specialized commissions are formed. Nowadays there are more than 19 specialized commissions consisting of elites from various economic sectors that offer consultation services to the Board of Directors. Experts gather suggestions, plans, and issues for economic growth and offer them to the members of the board of ICCIMA. These plans will later be suggested to three main branches of Iran, which are parliament, government, and judiciary. Moreover, ICCIMA has more than 200 economic formations with different fields of activity. We have an Arbitration Center to handle disputes among our members and also take care of international economic disputes and discussions. The formation of a public-private sector dialog council was one of the best and innovative of our activities during the past three years. This event is held once a month and consists of members from the private sector, cabinet ministers, chairmen of the parliamentary committees and judiciary assistants. This council is the best place for the private sector to meet government officials. It enables a dialogue about the economic problems and issues of Iran and provides a platform for suggestions that can boost Iran's economy and enhance its network of international relations. We also have a committee that aims to distinguish the business annoying rules, offers new economical rules and tries to facilitate the business environment for entrepreneurs. The chamber covers 34 province chambers and is an active branch of the International Chamber of Commerce. Every member of ICCIMA has an activity card with two verified signatures. One of the signatures belongs to ICCIMA, and the other one is the Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Trade's signature. This card is a certification that the company is allowed to engage in international business activity. The main purpose of ICCIMA is to facilitate the members' activities. Economic development of the private sector is our main mission and all of our members are covered by the full support of the chamber and all its committees.

What are the main goals under the Ten-Year Vision, which was proclaimed in 2009?

One of the goals of ICCIMA is to improve its own position within the Iranian government and to upgrade its international position as well. Internationally, we achieved some of our goals. For example, one of our members was elected as board member in WCF this year. Next to this I was elected as vice president of the Silk Road Chamber, and we increased our activity after JCPOA. We started our negotiations to make the best out of the situation and currently there are many national and international delegations trying to improve the interactions. We will soon reach a desirable position in the international economy. As a representative of its members, the chamber is determined to pave the way for the Iranian economic structure and to prepare the appropriate climate so that its members can participate in the various economic areas. We play an effective role in enhancing domestic business competitiveness at the regional, national, and international level. Also, we promote the economic and social status of Iranian economic activists, entrepreneurs and ICCIMA members. We hope to improve our international business climate ranking in the near future.

What has been the impact of the lifting of sanctions on ICCIMA and its members so far, and which sectors will particularly benefit moving forward?

The JCPOA negotiations showed Iran's inclination to interaction and dialogue. We strongly believe that all the issues can be solved through negotiations. The deal brought Iran into a new international situation. The signing of JCPOA lifted a heavy block from Iran's economy and opened new gates to international interactions. We had serious banking problems before which are going to be solved soon. We have seen eye catching progress already in the financial and transport sectors and a reduction of economic risks. After the signing of JCPOA, we received many interested foreign delegations and their high demands created problems for us in the beginning. An important point to mention is that the international market does not only have direct economic expectations of investments in Iran. With Iran's geographical situation and its penetration rate in the regional economic markets, Iran would be a great and secure path to reach other markets in the region, such as Central Asia, the Caucasus, Iraq, and some parts of India and China. We also have several huge but incomplete plans in Iran, which are seeing great enthusiasm from investors from all over the world. These projects have great potential and the government has motivational plans for them. Nowadays everyone is aware that the price of the energy in Iran is low and you can easily find young and educated. This can be counted as an attraction for investors. Geographically, Iran is located in an insecure area. Yet it is one of the safest countries in the region and this can be an advantage to economic investors as well.

What is your outlook for 2017 and what are your goals beyond the Ten-Year Vision?

I was chosen for this position after a semi-period election as my dear friend and colleague could not continue his activity for some reasons. After I was elected for this position, we decided to continue with the existing agenda and to add some new plans at the same time. The underlying vision of all the plans is to increase the share of the private sector in Iran's economy. The Supreme Leader of Iran issued a rule years ago. Based on this rule, a lot of factories and governmental economic sectors should be privatized. So not only am I determined to increase the private sector share in my term as president, also the government supports us. Another important point is that we should make economic activities clear, create economic competition in the private sector, and increase our knowledge about the challenges and the ways to cope with them through holding events and workshops. To reach this goal we have formed a specialized commission in the chamber to upgrade our international rank and to cooperate with the World Economic Forum. This year we participated in a questionnaire of the World Economic Forum. We seek stronger international interactions and believe that business is a two-way highway. Investment in the country will cause permanent mutual economic relations with other countries. Sanctions delayed our technical capability in some industries but we will soon solve this matter. We will renovate our technology and introduce the capacity and capability of Iran to the world to establish a permanent link with the international economy.