Iran parliament stresses foreign investment in five-year economic plan

 15 Jan 2017 - 18:23

Iran parliament stresses foreign investment in five-year economic plan
Two Iranian women walk along a street past a mosaic mural on the first anniversary of the nuclear agreement, in the capital Tehran on Jaunary 14, 2017. The first anniversary, of the nuclear deal between Iran and six powers, that lifted a large part of international sanctions on Iran in return for limits on Tehran's nuclear programme, comes four days before the inauguration of Republican president Trump on January 20. AFP / Atta Kenare


DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a five-year economic development plan on Sunday that includes a sharp rise in foreign investment, though Tehran may not achieve that while U.S. president-elect Donald Trump is in office.

The plan lets the government arrange up to an average of $30 billion of foreign financing each year, in addition to $15 billion of annual direct foreign investment in Iran, and up to $20 billion of foreign investment conducted with local partners.

Such volumes of foreign investment would mark a big increase from levels seen in the past few decades. Since 2000, net inflows of foreign direct investment rarely exceeded $4 billion, according to the World Bank - a small amount by the standards of major emerging markets.

Investment has been deterred by red tape and restrictive regulation, and more recently by international sanctions. Many though not all of those sanctions were lifted last January after Tehran signed a deal with world powers limiting its nuclear programme.

Trump has threatened to either scrap the nuclear agreement or seek a better deal. At the very least, tighter enforcement of remaining sanctions by Washington could make companies around the world more cautious about trading with or investing in Iran.

Iranian officials have said they want foreign capital and technology to modernise a wide range of industries, estimating the key oil and gas sectors need about $180 billion of funds for expansion and maintenance during the next decade.

The development plan, many details of which have yet to be published, calls for efforts to create jobs and curb inflation, which the government of President Hassan Rouhani has brought down to single digits from over 40 percent a few years ago.

But as part of the plan, lawmakers earlier approved expanding military spending to 5 percent of the annual budget from almost 2 percent previously. This would include developing Iran’s long-range missile programme, which Trump has pledged to halt.

The development plan also features aspects of a “resistance economy” promoted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for Iran to make its economy more self-sufficient so that it can resist outside pressure.

The plan has to be approved by the Guardian Council, which vets legislation passed by parliament, before it takes effect.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Tom Heneghan)