Furthermore, Iran should reform its diplomatic apparatus to enable it to find new markets for Iranian firms by more aggressively engaging in business diplomacy. The current state of the diplomatic apparatus is not prepared for such a task, as trade, business and economic affairs have not been defined as a top priority for Iranian diplomatic missions abroad.
In this vein, the Islamic Republic needs to establish a sophisticated interdepartmental organization dedicated to foreign business and trade, with commercial attaches and offices abroad that could do much more than the existing Trade Promotion Organization of Iran or other similar entities. Besides, retaining long-term competitive advantage in the R&D intensive sectors requires more effective scientific and academic exchanges with the world.
In the post-sanctions era, this could come through joint educational and research programs with advanced scientific centers as well as academic exchange programs. Providing a vibrant, cutting-edge scientific environment and lucrative business incentives could ultimately result in the return of Iranian experts, entrepreneurs and investors living abroad, all of whom could help speed up the growth of the high-tech sector.
Finally, Iranian policymakers should more consider the broader, long-term trend at play: Oil revenues can no longer be seen as the main source of government revenue, the country’s agriculture sector is in crisis and the energy-intense industry no longer enjoys the competitive advantage afforded by cheap energy. In this environment, more investment in high-tech and R&D-intensive industry could be a potential solution to the dilemma of how to provide opportunities for Iran’s highly skilled but cheap workforce.
(Picture: Fabienne Serriere)