Nov 20, 2019, 3:53 PM
Journalist ID: 956
News Code: 83563013
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Chinese media: Tehran changes economic driver from oil to innovative sector

Tehran, IRNA/Global Times- China's media reported on Wednesday that Iran is shifting its economic growth driver from oil to technology.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Iran's Vice-President for Scientific and Technological Affairs Sorena Sattari participated in the 2019 China Hi-Tech Fair (CHTF).

Global Times reporters Li Sikun and Wang Bozun (GT) sat for an exclusive interview with Sattari in Beijing after the event on Iran's technology development.

GT: What's your impression of the CHTF? Did you strike a deal during the event?

Sattari: I was so happy to attend the CHTF in Shenzhen and impressed by the fast development of the technology sector in China. I have told China's minister of science and technology that I think the country's technology development should be ranked No.1 and it will soon catch up with the US.

In the past few years, technology growth in Iran was also very fast. More than 80 Iranian tech companies participated in this year's CHTF and signed contracts and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Chinese companies.

I think the most surprising thing is the development of science and technology in China. I wonder how China could connect schools, society, and factories, which is quite unique. We would like to use China's way to make our schools, culture, and factories better connected, because our schools, which apply the western education system, have very little connection with the society.

GT: What advantages and disadvantages do you think Iran will have during the economic transition?

Sattari: Shifting our economic driver from oil and natural reserves to table-driven technology is our government's current goal. The population of young people aged 20 to 40 is 33 million, with about 5 million of them studying in colleges and more than 13 million already have college degrees and are working in technical jobs.

A lot of innovative startups have been created by young people in Iran, and they are growing very fast, this is the new face of Iran.

Our government is also investing in many business incubators, science parks, and technology zones. The Internet penetration rate in Iran is now over 90 percent, and it has the fifth-largest number of engineers in the world. Therefore, we are very confident about our talent pool.

GT: Are there any preferential policies for foreign companies to do business in Iran?

Sattari: Our country has approved a special law to support tech companies. It offers them preferential terms including free insurance and tax exemption. We have also provided a good environment for tech companies, providing them with cheap loans.

At present, we have more than 40 science and technology parks in Iran. We welcome companies from your country to set up offices, and we will try our best to provide them with whatever they need.

GT: As the US imposed new sanctions on Iran this year again, what impact will they have on the country's technology development?

Sattari: US sanctions against our country are nothing new. The US has been sanctioning Iran for more than 40 years. We believe if we want to be more independent, we can't just rely on technology from western countries.

It's hard to say that these sanctions have no impact on our country, but it is notable that during hard times we would know who the true friends are. The US sanctions have taught us that we have to rely on our own efforts and own talents to succeed, and that has brought us closer to our friends. Under the sanctions, we have developed good relations with some countries, especially China and Russia. China's achievements in science and technology are the best in the world, so we have cooperated with China in many aspects.

Fortunately, Iran has also made great progress in science and technology over the past decade. In fact, the best thing about the US sanctions is that they made us grow faster. Ten years ago, we ranked 34th in the world in science research sector, and now we are 16th.

Our development in some high-tech fields is very good, especially in the field of nanotechnology, and we ranked fourth in the world. We believe that we will reach 15th or 14th place in science research this year.

Iran's economy is now very diverse, and over the past six years, we have begun to rely on the technology sector.

GT: Does that mean sanctions also provide Iran with opportunities for development?

Sattari: You are right. The more pressure from the US sanctions in a certain field, the better development could be reached in that field, such as in the fields of defense and weapons development.

We are a very ancient civilized country. After oil was discovered 100 years ago, the infrastructure in terms of economy, society, culture, and innovation has changed. We became dependent on oil, which made us weak and vulnerable to face these sanctions.

We believe that the development of the economy, especially the innovative economy, should depend on our own ability. Through the sale of oil and other energy sources, we can develop well within a short period, but such development is not comprehensive and many fields cannot be well developed such as culture and technology.

Oil used to be our advantage, but now it has become our disadvantage, so we decided not to rely on it. Most of the US sanctions are aimed at our energy and raw materials sector, but we are growing rapidly in other areas, particularly in science and technology.

GT: Amid the tensions generated by the US sanctions, what are Iran's plans to boost the technology sector?

Sattari: We will pay more attention to this sector in the future. Now, there are about 5,000 technology enterprises in our country, and they are expected to create a total output value of more than $11 billion for Iran this year. We are less dependent on oil. This year, the proportion of reliance on oil in the economy has dropped to about 15 percent. This means that technology is becoming a main economic growth driver and we have no longer an oil-based economy.

Every man in Iran must serve two years in the military. But if they can start innovative projects, they can do simple military training in their own companies. This is how we attract young people to set up innovative companies.

We are fighting the US sanctions. We believe that fighting against these sanctions depends on our own knowledge and development of our country's innovative environment, and on our own young talents. Our talents have many excellent ideas, and I believe these will address the problems created by the US sanctions.

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