Economy - overview: Iran's economy is marked by statist policies, inefficiencies, and reliance on oil and gas exports, but Iran also possesses significant agricultural, industrial, and service sectors. The Iranian government directly owns and operates hundreds of state-owned enterprises and indirectly controls many companies affiliated with the country's security forces. Distortions - including inflation, price controls, subsidies, and a banking system holding billions of dollars of non-performing loans - weigh down the economy, undermining the potential for private-sector-led growth.
Private sector activity includes small-scale workshops, farming, some manufacturing, and services, in addition to medium-scale construction, cement production, mining, and metalworking. Significant informal market activity flourishes and corruption is widespread.
Fiscal and monetary constraints, following the expansion of international sanctions in 2012 on Iran's Central Bank and oil exports, significantly reduced Iran's oil revenue, forced government spending cuts, and sparked a sharp currency depreciation. Iran’s economy contracted for the first time in two decades during the period 2012 to 2015, but strong growth resumed in 2016. Iran's stock market plunged between 2013 and 2015. Iran continues to suffer from high unemployment and underemployment. Lack of job opportunities has prompted many educated Iranian youth to seek employment overseas, resulting in a significant "brain drain."
In June 2013, the election of President Hasan RUHANI generated widespread public expectations of economic improvement and greater international engagement. RUHANI has achieved some success, including reining in inflation and, in July of 2015, securing the promise of sanctions relief for Iran by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the P5+1. The JCPOA, which severely limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for unfreezing Iranian assets and reopening Iran to international trade, should bolster foreign direct investment, increase trade, and stimulate growth.
Definition: This entry briefly describes the type of economy, including the degree of market orientation, the level of economic development, the most important natural resources, and the unique areas of specialization. It also characterizes major economic events and policy changes in the most recent 12 months and may include a statement about one or two key future macroeconomic trends.
Source: CIA World Factbook - This page was last updated on January 20, 2018