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Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mining and Agriculture held its first monthly gathering in the New  Iranian Year on Sunday. (Photo: Bahareh Taghiabadi )
Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mining and Agriculture held its first monthly gathering in the New  Iranian Year on Sunday. (Photo: Bahareh Taghiabadi )

Iran Chamber of Commerce Proposes Nat'l Discourse on Economic Resilience

After a period of mistrust and exclusion from policymaking, the private sector has recently found a bigger platform to make its voice heard

Iran Chamber of Commerce Proposes Nat'l Discourse on Economic Resilience

The head of Iran Chamber of  Commerce, Industries, Mining and Agriculture on Sunday called on all economic entities to embrace the motto of the current Iranian year (started March 21)–named by the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei as the Year of Resistance Economy: Production and Employment–and turn it into a national discourse.
Setting the tone at the first gathering of ICCIMA in the new Iranian year, Gholamhossein Shafei, expressed enthusiasm for the Leader's vision that promises to revitalize the beleaguered domestic production and tackle the alarming youth unemployment.
"The Leader's words in the new year should become the focal point for a national discourse … I hope that this time we face this issue in its true sense and that differences of views won't lead to divergent interpretations," Shafei said.
The head of ICCIMA used his speech to drive home the oft-repeated demands of the private sector, some of which businesses frequently complain have fallen on deaf ears. Front and center were gripes about the gargantuan size of the government, which Shafei compared to a family with too many offspring, and the Kafkaesque red tape that, despite recent improvements, continue to stand in the way of entrepreneurship and business growth.
"Big government stems from oil windfalls that have given rise to various organizations set up in various parts of the country, leading to a condition where nobody performs their assigned duty," he said.  
Iran initiated a big wave of privatization during the tenure of former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with many government-owned behemoths being divested. The bulk of these divestitures, however, was grabbed by public-sector entities that operate independent of the government while even the truly privatized ones retained some form of government ownership.
This has prompted many to question the efficacy of the privatization plan that they say has made the erstwhile government-run companies even less transparent and productive. Private enterprises also bemoan the process that has created new rivals that are not only not accountable to the public but also enjoy exclusive access to the corridors of power.
During the Sunday's event, Mohammad Hossein Rahmati, a Sharif University professor, gave a presentation that highlighted some of the flaws of the privatization plan implemented during 2009-17.  

Asking to Be Heard
Other aspects deemed by Shafei to be instrumental in making the economy more resilient and self-sufficient were transparency, fiscal probity and the rule of law. He also demanded a bigger voice for the private sector in decision-making processes.
After a period of mistrust and exclusion from policymaking, the private sector has recently found a bigger platform to make its voice heard, thanks in part to years of economic stagnation and falling oil prices in recent years.
Despite this, Shafei referred to a recent "effort by some" to exclude the three chambers of commerce, guilds and cooperatives from the Money and Credit Council–a policymaking panel headed by the central bank governor that, among other things, sets interest rates.
A joint statement read out by a coordinator of the three chambers called for a crackdown on public corruption, removing the grounds for rent-seeking, boosting non-oil exports and strengthening the private sector.
Other ICCIMA members–some of whom had harsh words for the government–also took to the stage to request meaningful reforms in government policy, including floating the rial and eliminating burdensome regulations.
In light of the looming presidential vote on May 19, Shafei noted that ICCIMA would shun political affiliations but would continue to support the right economic policies.

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