Tue, Apr 10, 2007
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Foreign Investment At Record Level
Growth Rates Robust
Concern Over
Rising Iron Prices
Iran, Venezuela
Back Gas OPEC
Shrimp Sent Back From Europe
No Role for Politics In WB Contracts
Wage Increase
Not Enough
Call to Export Geological Technology
MoU on Caspian Seal Protection

Foreign Investment At Record Level
Foreign investment hit a record $10.2 billion in the Iranian year to March 20 from $4.2 billion in 2005 and $2 million in 1994, the Persian daily Iran reported on Monday.
Asian entrepreneurs made the largest investments in the Islamic state by investing in 40 out of 80 projects funded by foreigners.
The daily cited figures by the Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran based on which the largest amount of foreign investment was in the industrial sector, including food and beverage, tobacco, textiles, clothing, leather, chemical, oil derivates, etc. The figure exceeded $8.76 billion. Water, electricity and gas sector ranked second, attracting $874.83 million, it added.
In the third place, the real state sector absorbed more than $406 million.
Investments in service, telecommunication and transportation as well as mines reached $193 million, $14.3 million and $14.2 million respectively.
Asian countries invested $7.666 billion in various projects followed by several multinational consortia.
Investments by these multinational companies exceeded $1.39 billion (in four projects).
Although European entrepreneurs were involved in 34 projects, they invested only in the range of $1.2 in the Islamic Republic.
American countries also committed $12.329-million in the country; while investments by African states registered close to four million dollars.
Last year’s investment figures indicate that as the UN Security Council debates options to deal with Tehran’s nuclear program, sanction threats have not had a damaging effect on the economy and the 30-year sanctions imposed by the US has not blunted the country’s economy.

Growth Rates Robust
Economic growth and fair distribution of income make up the backbone of policies pursued by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the economic front, Iran’s executive director at the International Monetary Fund, Abbas Mirakhor said.
The official, in a statement carried by Fars on Monday, elaborated on the country’s economic conditions.
The government has adopted plans to increase economic growth in a bid to generate jobs and boost small- and medium-sized companies, he explained.
The economy has shown a strong growth in 2005-6 fiscal year, posting a growth rate of 5.4 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in the preceding year.
The government, Iran’s top official at WashingtonÐbased world body said, is also striving to narrow the huge income gap in different regions.
According to Mirakhor, these objectives can be materialized only through close observance of targets set in the Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010).
Development of non-oil sector as well as strengthening of private investors via injecting oil revenues are also on the agenda of planners, policymakers and government bodies, the official noted.
Non-oil sector grew by six percent in 2005-6, registering an unprecedented increase, he added.
Non-oil industries continued to grow causing the economy to post a 5.8-percent growth rate in 2006-7.
He predicted that the trend will also continue in the Iranian year to March 2008.
Mirakhor said that the inflation rate reached about 12 percent in March 2006-7 from the earlier 15 percent plus.
“Increase in liquidity during September 2006-March 2007) had an inflationary impact on the economy and policies adopted by the Central Bank of Iran in this respect faced challenges,“ the official stressed.
According to him, current account savings rose to its highest level in the past five years.
Mirakhor said that new policies including issuance of participation bonds and drawing in liquidity from the market have been worked out to control the inflation in fiscal year 2007-8.
Foreign debts decreased and Oil Stabilization Fund’s asset increased in the last fiscal year.
Volume of imports, which had experienced a growth during March 2004-6, was brought down last year.

Concern Over
Rising Iron Prices
Iron prices in domestic markets are five percent higher than those in other parts of the world.
Prices of ironware have increased by 15 percent since March 21, head of Iron Seller Union said Monday.
Mohammad Azad told ILNA that a 10-15-rise in prices of iron, which constitutes 95 percent of all metals produced worldwide, in the past 20 days, is unjustifiable.
The union is against the growing trend in prices because if this continues, we should witness a sharp rise in prices within the next two-three months and even by March 2008, he underlined.
He regretted that the price regulations plans of the government and commerce ministry have not yet borne fruit and have failed to strike a balance between supply and demand. Lack of supply-demand equilibrium as well as shortage usually pushes up the prices of iron products.
On behalf of the union, he called on the government to take swift action to regulate the market and check further price hike.
Azad linked the increase in prices to growing demand at the start of the construction season and state development projects.
He, however, emphasized that an increase in global prices of iron ore also played a role in the recent developments.
Iron prices in domestic markets are five percent higher than those in other parts of the world and continue to rise because of higher demand, lower production and high prices of raw materials.

Iran, Venezuela
Back Gas OPEC
Iran and Venezuela agreed to back an organization for gas exporting countries, one day before the meeting of Gas Exporting Countries is held in Qatar.
Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez and Iran’s Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh described the idea of an OPEC-like gas organization as beneficial to their national interests.
“We are here to support gas OPEC. It’s a very good idea ... It’s very important for (gas) producers to have some agreement,“ AFP quoted Ramirez as saying.
Iranian minister also mentioned that if the Forum moves to form the gas organization, it will serve to further consolidate the entity.
Vaziri Hamaneh told reporters that other ministers in the Forum have adopted a ’favorable’ stance on the issue, the sources said.
Western countries, including the US, have all expressed opposition to the plan but Iran and Venezuela branded such disapprovals as ordinary stuff. “Consumer countries are always against our interests. We are trying to defend our interests,“ Ramirez said.
On January 29, in a meeting with Igor Ivanov, secretary of the Russian Security Council, the leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei spoke of the possibility of setting up an international organization in the gas sector for the first time.

Shrimp Sent Back From Europe
Shrimp exports stood at 2,800 tons in the year to March 2006.
More than 6,000 tons of shrimp bound for EU-member states were sent back to the country due to discrepancy in export documents.
Announcing this, director of the Public Relations Office of Iran’s Fisheries Organization, Mehdi Shirazi told ISNA on Sunday in Tehran that 3,500 tons of the returned consignment was reexported while the rest were channeled to the domestic market.
Shrimp exports stood at 2,800 tons in the year to March 2006.
The official recalled that the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had published the export quotas for caviar and other sturgeon products from the Caspian for 2007 in January.
“As per the decision, Iran has been allocated 60 percent of the Caspian Sea caviar quota. The quota for other littoral states--Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan--stands at 40 percent.“
The secretariat did not publish caviar quota in 2006 because the five states concerned failed to provide sufficient information on the sustainability of their sturgeon catch.
Putting seafood export at 21,000 tons in 2005, he forecast that the figure will reach 60,000 tons by the end of the Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010).
Complaining about low seafood consumption in Iran, Shirazi contended that organizing fairs on fisheries would help raise public knowledge and ultimately encourage them to consume more marine products.
The official maintained that ministries of health, education and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting should jointly adopt plans to help increase consumption of seafood.
Industrial countries, most notably Japan consume huge amounts of seafood, whereas in Iran the per capita consumption is less than 0.1 gram a year.

No Role for Politics In WB Contracts
A senior official said World Bank officials have agreed not to allow recent political issues to hinder contracts the bank has signed with Iran.
Speaking to reporters in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, on the sidelines of the meeting on the outcome of the development of water supply projects in this southern province late Sunday, deputy energy minister for water and sewerage affairs, Majid Namjou said, “We are pursuing the contracts that we have signed with the World Bank to work on some projects.“
In case the Word Bank fails to fulfill its commitments, we are prepared to react in line with defending our national goals,“ he added.
Namjou, who doubles as the director general of Water and Sewerage Organization, further said that contracts with the World Bank in the water sector add up to $253 million.
Adding that the credit for water and sewerage sector has increased by 25 percent, he announced that 14 water treatment plants and 16 water supply projects will be commissioned by March 2008 noting that the said projects are on schedule.
Namjou expressed satisfaction with the development of water supply projects in the southern province of Khuzestan and added that the province is located in a critical region therefore the government is determined to solve the problem of water in the cities of this southern province.
“The government maintains a serious stance on water supply in this province.“
Considering the conditions of Abadan and Khorramshahr, both important cities in Khuzestan province, water supply projects of these two cities will be completed by March 2008, he added.
Namjou inspected some water and sewerage projects in the province on Monday.

Wage Increase
Not Enough
Secretary General of Worker’s House Alireza Mahjoub said that workers’ wages cannot meet their basic needs in the year to March 2008.
In an interview with ISNA, he said that given the inflation rate, the meager increase in workers salaries is meaningless.
Head of the Workers Fraction of Majlis noted that purchasing power of Iranian laborers would decline sharply this year.
Mahjoub said he has no information about presenting an amendment on workers’ wages, adding the approved amount of salary is in the interest of employers and harms the laborers.
A member of the Tehran Province Islamic Labor Council Davood Qaderi said late last year that Iranian workers must be given a 25-percent wage rise in the year to March 2008 given the growing inflation rate and the declining purchase power.
He proposed that economic indices, including inflation rate, household expenses and poverty line, should be taken into account while setting the workers’ minimum wage for next year.
He added that as per a 2003 ratification by the High Labor Council, there is a 33-percent gap between what the workers get and what they should.

Call to Export Geological Technology
Geology and Mineral Exploration Organization has attained advanced technology in geological studies and with the discovery of mineral reserves, it can therefore export technical and engineering services, the minister of industries and mines said.
Talking to Eco News on Sunday, Alireza Tahmasbi added that this has been the main focus of the ministry and all industrial and service activities are planned in line with the goal of achieving international standards. “This can only happen if we can take necessary measures to send our technology abroad.“
The minister noted that geological studies is one the fields that has advanced considerably and referred to geological maps and the knowledgeable experts that have been trained in the exploration of reserves.
Given that one side of Iran’s economical cooperation deals with mining, many countries are keen on geology and mine exploration and Iran’s assistance by transferring its expertise and executing special projects is a long-desired plan that the country has now achieved, he concluded.

MoU on Caspian Seal Protection
Iran’s Fisheries Organization, Gilan Environment Department and Gilan University signed a memorandum of understanding with UK Darwin Institute to preserve seals in the Caspian Sea, IRNA said.
According to the Fisheries Organization, Abdollah Hatamzadeh, Sha’ban-Ali Nezami, Kamran Zolfinejad and Hormoz Asadi from Gilan University, Fisheries Organization of Iran, Gilan Environment Department and Darwin Institute respectively signed the MoU on behalf of their sides.
Regarding the MoU, the sides underlined the importance of preserving Caspian seals from extinction, and they will do their best to preserve and renew the marine species.
All parties to the agreement believe that to safeguard Caspian seals, all relevant organizations including Fisheries Organization, Environment Department, Gilan University, executive centers of the northern province as well as regional and international organizations should coordinate their activities.
Gilan Environment Department will support the project by ceding a section of Bandar Anzali Environment Station to set up a research center to study Caspian seals in addition to sponsoring the project.
According to the MoU, Gilan Environment Department will provide logistics, laboratory and welfare facilities while Darwin Institute will fund and equip the research center which will be supervised by Gilan University.
Iran’s Fisheries Organization will also support the project by equipping the research center for a three-year period, the MoU read.
Darwin Institute will also hold training workshops or short-term courses for staff of Fisheries Organization and Environment Department on preservation of seals as well as support research conducted by students of Gilan University, and exchange documents, statistics, data, books, scientific and expertise press through easy access to libraries and data banks.
Gilan Environment Department and Fisheries Organization of Iran will support the establishment of a protected area to increase the number of the species in Caspian Sea.
The MoU also called for informing the sides on holding technical sessions, international specialized round-table discussions, domestic and international training workshops and joint ventures by inviting foreign experts in the field.