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IRAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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Update No: 083 - (24/10/08)

At least somebody is happy (for now)
Like other oil and gas producers, Iran has been largely shelved from the financial crisis which invested most of the world and particularly the west. Indeed the stock exchange has been recovering and is up 20% over a year ago, helped by the privatisation program of the government. Iranian President Ahmadinejad did not hide his satisfaction in his public statements and various Ayatollahs exploited the opportunity to remind their constituencies how superior a system Islam is. Even former President Khatami, a reformist, indulged in the exercise. His rare public statement could be interpreted as an indication that he is being tempted by the invitation of some reformists to rejoin the political battle and advance his candidature in next yearsí elections - he might be trying to pre-empt the vetoing of his candidacy. Khatami was far from popular at the end of his two terms in government, but his image seems to have recovered as many in the country believe that the country needs a saviour and somebody who can bridge the gap with the west. Khatami could be the necessary counterpart to an Obama presidency in the states. Not all reformists and moderates support him, not least because quite a few did not like his moderate attitude towards the conservative government. 

Ahmadinejad, however, has little to cheer. Poverty has been on the rise since 2005 and now 14 million Iranians are officially acknowledged to be living below the poverty line. Inflation continues to rise and in September it reached 29.4% on an annual basis. According to a study commissioned by the Iranian parliament, 90% of Teheranís inhabitants consider inflation the most serious problem of the country. 32% of respondents blamed foreign pressure for the economic difficulties, but about as many did not. With oil prices falling, moreover, the time of Ahmadinejadís profligacy is surely coming to an end. The property market is already suffering from a lack of buyers and prices are likely to collapse soon. Ahmadinejad might be forced to curtail its ambitious spending plans even before next Juneís elections. 

LNG out
Iranís oil and gas policies continue to evolve. Teheran appears to have decided to drop its LNG plans, opting instead to expand its pipeline network. Existing LNG contrasts will be implemented, but outstanding bids will be turned into pipeline projects. It is believed that the move is dictated by the impact of sanctions, which have limited Teheranís access to LNG technology. Ahmadinejadís growing influence in policy-making at the Oil Ministry was reflected in October in the resignation of Deputy Oil minister Nematzadeh, an appointee of Ahmadinejadís predecessor. 

The government is also multiplying its efforts to market Iran as a transit route for oil and gas supplies from Central Asia. Pakistanís and particularly Indiaís hunger for natural gas from Turkmenistan (which has just proven massive new gas deposits), may be assuaged by a pipeline through Iran, as an alternative to a long mooted pipeline through unstable Afghanistan and tribal Pakistan.

Facelift for the new White House occupier
Teheran might be preparing itself for the post-Bush period. It has received various assurances by friendly countries that more sanctions are unlikely: Russian company Gazprom even proposed the formation of a joint Russian-Iranian gas company recently, while the Chinese are blocking talks about further sanctions against Iran in retaliation to sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan. The talks had previously been blocked by Russiaís anger about Western criticism of its brief Georgian war. Despite this diplomatic protection, American sources confirm that Iranian assistance to Iraqi and Afghan insurgents is declining. This presumably is meant to create a political and diplomatic environment which would facilitate an Obama Presidentís offer of negotiations to Teheran. Teheran does not want any form of permanent US presence in Iraq, but its opposition to the Iraqi-US pact is being expressed in non-violent ways:. Another step which might have been taken in order to improve Iranís image is the announcement that under-18ís will no longer be subjected to the capital sentence. The recently announced cut of military conscription terms by 1-2 months seems instead to be rather aimed at appeasing internal constituencies.
 

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