Iran Must Discard Obsolete Mentalities

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

International waterways, a pathway to future development

Pirooz Ghofrani
Former Head of Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Western Asia Department and Strategic Analyst

The fact that throughout history, Iran has been the pinnacle of the civilization in a region, which is currently known as Western Asia and its domestic developments have always led to developments in other countries, is an undeniable fact. On the other hand, the reality that our country has been always prone to attacks and assaults by various ethnic groups and tribes through its neighbors is also an obvious reality. However, these two important points – that is, our country’s pivotal role as a civilizational center in the region, on the one hand, and frequent attacks on the country for various reasons, on the other hand – have caused the country’s decision-makers throughout its history to sometimes adopt and pursue approaches and policies which have restricted the country’s capacity to develop and change according to a clear paradigm.

In fact, concerns about foreign attacks and security threats posed to the country through its border regions and other peripheral areas during the past few centuries have caused central parts of Iran such as Tehran, Qazvin and Isfahan provinces to draw the highest attention from various governments. As a result, such regions have been chosen as the best places for the establishment of important industries and even have been chosen as the capital city of the country. Up to a few decades ago, some geopolitical experts of Iran even considered construction of railroads or modern roads from the borders toward the central cities as dangerous and a potential source of threat. Such an attitude in the country’s large-scale approach to border areas has given birth to big and strategic mistakes in definition of and planning for future development of the country. It would suffice to note that many of the country’s important industries have been established in areas that are neither close to consumer markets, nor close to raw materials production hubs or even export ports.

Development in the light of evolving paradigms

At present and due to development of the fundamental principles of futurology and futuristic planning, all governments are trying to meticulously monitor and assess global trends in such important areas as society, economy, science and technology. By doing so, they aim to adopt more accurate policies so that development plans that are formulated for their countries would be in line with global development trends and, therefore, help their societies not to lag behind rapid advances in the world. New paradigms are now governing the world or will do so in the near future, which will change the face of the globe and bring about great changes in all areas of human activity. One of such changes is the formation of networked society, networked economy and networked spaces.

At the same time, networked economy has, in turn, led to great developments in different fields and will certainly continue to do this. New literature introduced in such areas as geopolitics and geoeconomics all point to the emergence of a new paradigm within the framework of networked economy. The new paradigm is based on the fact that in the future world, cities will be among major elements affecting economic systems and cultures and will, in fact, shape various cultures and economies. According to this paradigm, due to having suitable transportation, management, communication and information infrastructure, the global cities will be in a good position to become the main hubs for all kinds of activities in geographical regions and even countries around them. Also according to this evolving paradigm, the importance of the existing geographical borders will gradually fade and countries will be known by the number of their global cities. In this state, global cities will be taken as the symbol of their host countries and will function as metropolises for countries around them.

The study of forthcoming trends will show that specialized spheres will be defined for such global cities in the future as a result of which the global cities will be divided, according to their environmental capabilities and potentials, into three major categories of financial, production and managerial hubs or even a combination of these groups. In this state, a country, which lacks a global city according to predefined coordinates, will easily become a subsidiary to the first global city which is nearest to it. This means that all countries located around a global city will be, in fact, considered as the periphery of that global city and will be the source of the economic, managerial and transportation power that the global city demonstrates in its economic activities and within its own global network.

The situation would be such that every economic corporation in regional countries will be forced to have a main office in one of these global cities in order to be able to keep up its international activities. In our region, the Turkish port city of Istanbul and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are making great efforts to introduce themselves as a regional global city and a metropolis for all regional countries around them. Under these circumstances, if Iran does not have a well-known global city, it will easily turn into a subsidiary to one of these two metropolises in economic terms. The main point here is that if such a scenario comes into effect, those two metropolises will be able to take advantage of all the capabilities of Iran in a one-way manner because in this state, Iran will be one of the peripheral areas of these metropolises. As a result, although the country possesses much more capacities than any one of those cities, it will become a subsidiary to them. One of the most important capacities in global cities is extensive communication and transportation networks, which are also present in both the aforesaid global cities that are located close to Iran; namely, Istanbul and Dubai. Both of these cities are close to free waters and possess various forms of suitable transportation and communication infrastructure. Among other capacities of these global cities is the presence of high managerial skills for the management of the available infrastructure as well as existence of suitable rules for management of peripheral areas.

Apart from physical infrastructure, the authorities in two evolving global cities of Dubai and Istanbul have also tried to clearly define legal and financial requirements as well as suitable bylaws in order to facilitate the presence of production, service, financial and other companies and corporations on their soil. It is quite evident that this issue in addition to our lag in terms of creating global cities has caused many Iranian companies to open representative offices in one or both of these global cities and continue their activities there. Some Iranian companies have been even able through facilities made available to them in these global cities to produce their products in those cities and export them to Iran.

The interesting point is that Qatar and Bahrain have been also planning to make investments in turning their capital cities [Doha and Manama] into global cities and, despite certain limitations, they have been relatively successful in this regard.

Future outlook for development in Iran

Of course, the concept of networked economy and the necessity for the development of Iran through international waterways was not an issue about half a century ago. However, since that time, occasional steps with various ups and downs have been taken to turn the Persian Gulf islands of Kish and Qeshm as well as the southeastern port city of Chabahar into economic hubs in the region. Kish Free Trade Zone has been defined as a trade and recreational center while Qeshm Free Zone has been considered as a primarily industrial center. Of course, necessary measures have been also taken for investment in these zones with priority being given to attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI).

However, to energize all-out development of Iran, the obsolete mentalities of past should be shattered. In order to make up for the fact that the country is lagging behind economic trends in the region and also to prevent Iran from become a subsidiary to major economic hubs in other regional countries, the future trend of Iran's development should be defined in a general way and with due attention to areas close to free waters. To guide the future Iranian economy toward its deserved position in the global economic network, Iran's presence along free waters should be strengthened and the future development trend of the Iranian economy should be oriented in the direction of developing southern parts of the country, especially the southeastern coasts which lie along international waterways.

Every effort must, therefore, be made to take advantage of all internal capacities of the country while also attracting necessary foreign direct investment to establish at least two global cities along southern coasts of Iran, which have direct access to international waters, before it is too late. The position of these cities should be chosen in such a way as to give them comparative advantages, which would be lacking in the aforesaid global cities that are situated along the Persian Gulf.

Appropriation of adequate budget and focusing on the development of the southern coasts of Iran will put an end of centuries of inattention to these regions, create numerous jobs in that region, reduce poverty, head off security threats resulting from poverty and inattention to these regions, and create better balance in development of the country. This will also obviate the need for the Islamic Republic to depend on global cities in neighboring countries in order to connect to global economy. As a result, our national economy will never turn into a secondary affiliate of regional economic hubs.

Creating at least two global cities on the Iranian side of the Strait of Hormuz and along the coasts of the Sea of Oman will remarkably facilitate land and marine transportation and shipment of goods in these regions, thus, leading to considerable saving in the costs of marine transport. Since various insurance firms increase the insurance premium in critical times when the risks are high, reducing the cost of insurance as well as decreasing the physical distance between Persian Gulf ports and various destinations in regional countries, especially in Central Asia, will enable such global cities to become direct links connecting the rest of the world with such countries as Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia. As a result, they will gradually turn into regional hubs for all kinds of economic activities. There is no doubt that finding appropriate locations for the establishment of these two global cities in southeastern part of Iran is a specialized task. However, according to previous studies carried out by international organizations, the port city of Chabahar has been identified as one of the locations, which has enough potential in order to serve this purpose due to the fact that it offers easy access to the aforesaid countries.

Key Words: Iran, Obsolete Mentalities, International Waterways, Obsolete Mentalities, Evolving Paradigms, Global Cities, Persian Gulf islands, Kish, Qeshm, Chabahar, Ghofrani

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Asriran News Website

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