This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Caveat Emptor, Ethics Light

"They have no one to sell to inside Iran but now, with the nuclear deal done, everything is falling into place."
"A lot of people here have started pulling out their calculators."
Anonymous Iranian-American consultant 

"Here our officials are minister, regulator and seller at the same time. Their goal is to get foreign funds, but in their hearts they are not ready to give away their influence."
Saeed Laylaz, Iranian economist

"The fact is that many laws have been made outside of the public eye, by a small group, often to the advantage of that group."
"The difference here, of course, is that we had a revolution in Iran to uplift the poor and keep foreigners out."
Hosein Raghvar, professor of economics, Al Zahra University, Tehran

"We need technology and investment. All investors are welcome, also Americans, if their policies allow it."
"This hasn't been thought through. When ordinary people find out, they will say the country is being sold out. I can't really disagree."
"If that happens [laws changed to disadvantage foreign investors in mid-stream], Iran's dreams of investments will end before it can really begin. No one will trust us after that."
Sadjad Ghoroghi, Iranian mining company owner

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (L) holds talks with Iran's Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh in Tehran on July 20, 2015.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (L) holds talks with Iran's Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh in Tehran on July 20, 2015. Press TV

European investors have been scrambling all over themselves trying to get a leg in on opportunities in the Islamic Republic of Iran with the end in sight of the sanctions imposed on the country which for years succeeded in diminishing its economy, as a result of its implacable insistence on developing what the international community is convinced is nuclear weapons. There will be no end of opportunities extended and grasped at by eager corporations, from China to France.

Given the fact that a nuclear-armed Islamist Iran represents a potential threat in destabilisation of the entire Middle East, and a threat to the one non-Muslim country existing there surrounded by hostile neighbours of which Iran is the most ardently vicious, and taking into account Iran's support of terrorism along with its oppression of its population, this rush to take advantage of newly-emerging business opportunities is a rather unseemly scene of unethical cupidity.

Corporate interests aren't known for their moral conscience; they are fully involved, as transnational organizations whose bottom line is uppermost of purpose, in exploiting all opportunities open to them to grow that bottom line and make their shareholders happy. In so doing they will also be recklessly gambling with the fond hope that a regime known for its dissembling, obfuscating, and never hesitating to proceed in their own best interests, will be a reliable partner in trade.

State enterprises were long sold off at bargain basement prices, reflective of the situation in Russia with the downfall of Communism and then-President Yeltsin's making of the oligarchy through the bargain-basement selling off of state assets. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, just like the FSB (old KGB) under Vladimir Putin, owns many state assets as money-making enterprises and to wield power.

Now, the corrupt practise of privatizing state enterprises has led to wealthy Iranians and the Guards prepared to shed their liabilities that under sanctions were not giving them the returns they wanted. With the Iranian economy struggling, domestic buyers are in short supply. Enter the international community. With Western sanctions set to expire, insurance companies, hospitals, refineries and public utilities will be up for sale.
Iran’s trade with Asia is climbing to new heights.
Iran’s trade with Asia is climbing to new heights.

As the nuclear agreement reached a conclusion, speculation began to heat up on the potential of investment from abroad in Iran The Revolutionary Guards Corps has put their ownership of Telecommunication Co. of Iran up for birds with a reserve of $7.8-billion. A law passed in 2002 enables foreign buyers to bid for full ownership in Iranian corporations. And since it's law, it's a guarantee isn't it?

But not so fast. A history of changing laws at the slightest provocation or choosing to ignore the law when the Iranian establishment finds it more convenient to do so, is an established history in the country Though the 2002 act guarantees government will compensate for investments that become nationalized or are expropriated, there is no mention of how close that compensation will come to the value of the project involved.

A warning of caution is being sounded by economists, amidst all the frenzy of European countries to get in on the ground floor for choice opportunities, before China scoops up everything of value. Economists warn that rushing to make investments in a country such as Iran is risky. The economy in Iran is rife with conflicting interests. Those holding power are themselves interested in claiming foreign cash, but they're prepared to do that without surrendering their power.

Iran has a dire need of money to fund critical infrastructure upgrades. $185-billion is required to update the petrochemical sector, the country needs a new airline fleet, and investment in every area of the economy and infrastructure is badly required. Bearing in mind that even while Iran's economy imploded under the weight of sanctions, Ayatollah Khamenei and the Republican Guard had no intention of caving in to Western demands that its nuclear program be abandoned.

Investments in Iran's rich deposits of zinc, copper and gold will be welcomed. The country's resources in minerals and metals could potentially result in a vast industry equal in size and value to the oil industry which makes it the third-largest oil exporter in the world. Business and politics is hugely interwoven in the country, however, and there are countless good reasons for investors to shy away from the uncertainty of trusting Iran.

But just as the world community was cautioned that bargaining with Iran over its nuclear plans would fail in the light of the ruling elite's famous intransigence on having to accede any vestige of its sovereign entitlements to foreign pressure led in the end to shameful capitulation on the part of the P5+1, international corporations who rush into doing business with this malign administration will deserve whatever harm comes to their investment portfolios.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (C) arrives in Tehran, with Iran's Deputy Minister of Petroleum Amir-Hossein Zamaninia on hand to receive him. ©Shana

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