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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 136,833 107,522 114,100 34
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,000 1,710 1,680 110
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Iran

Update No: 075 - (28/02/08)

Vetted again
Iran's internal politics is now focused on the forthcoming 14 March parliamentary elections. In February the Guardian Council vetted the candidates' lists and excluded almost a third of the prospective MPs, many of them reformists. Although the Council then reinstated almost 600 candidates following their appeals, the large majority of the highest profile reformist candidates remain excluded from the elections. Before the post-appeals reinstatement, the reformist coalition estimated that it would have been able to effectively compete in just 67 of 290 seats, a number which may have rise to about 90 afterwards. Nonetheless, the reformists have ruled out a boycott; they probably expected such a move anyway given that it had already occurred in previous electoral campaigns. They probably hope that together with pragmatic conservatives they can further weaken Ahmadinejad's hold in the parliament and deprive him of sufficient support to implement his plans.

US economic siege makes Russians and Chinese happy 
On the international scene the main development in February was a new diplomatic offensive against Iran from Washington. After some hesitation following the publication of a report by the US intelligence agencies, which described the Iranian military program as having been discontinued five years ago, the Department of State has seized on a new IAEA report, which despite recording progress on the Iranian side with regard to transparency also claimed that Teheran still does not allow full access to all aspects of its nuclear program and keeps enriching uranium as well as expanding its centrifuges facilities. The Americans, with European support, will try to push for more economic sanctions against Iran. It is utterly unlikely however that either the Chinese or the Russians will agree to new sanctions in the UN Security Council. Both are accelerating the development of deep economic relations with Teheran. Russian firm Gazprom for example is negotiating the formation of a joint company with the Iranians for the development of two phases of the South Pars gas fields and several other projects. The fact that sanctions and US pressure discourage many firms from dealing with Iran is also favouring Russian and Chinese penetration of the Iranian markets. In fact many other countries still show signs of being attracted by the prospect of investing in Iran, despite rising US pressure. Turkey, for example, has expressed interest in investing in the South Pars gas fields too and is also discussing the possibility of partnering with a Swiss firm in the construction of a gas pipeline to bring Iranian gas to Italy. 

Ambitious plans
The Iranians are investing significant resources in the expansion of their still modest gas sector. They account for a 1% share of the world gas export market, but plan to expand that to 10%. They have already been expanding their capabilities in the manufacturing of heavy compressors and turbines; internal distribution of gas has greatly been expanded too and now 76% of the households have domestic supplies of gas. Teheran also plans to expand its role in the world petrochemicals market, where its market share has always been very low. Production, at least according to government sources, now stands at 22 millions tones, behind only Saudi Arabia, but exports are low even if they have been increasing. In order to boost them, Iran opened in February its first oil exchange in the island of Kish, a free economic zone. Iran plans to sell crude too there, pricing it in euros in order to attract European customers and to reduce its reserves in the American currency. The Iranians are confident that the move will be successful given the tight conditions of the market and the savings that it promises to euro zone customers. 

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