Over the next 50 years, the Islamic Republic will become one of the world’s strongest economies and a leading force in science, technology and innovation, according to a new vision for the future unveiled by the Supreme Leader.
Iranian officials tasked with planning Iran’s future have been given two years to finalize a planning and progress document for the next five decades that encompasses a huge range of goals, from creating an environment that support a vast array of natural resources to an equal society where poverty and corruption have been eradicated.
But to what extent have those behind the draft document taken the current challenges the country faces into consideration, as well as Iran’s ability to address them?
On October 24, the Supreme Leader unveiled a draft version of Islamic Iranian Model of Progress, also known as the the “Iran 1444 Document” or the Islamic-Iranian Pattern for Progress. The Leader went public with the plan at a time when the country is in the throes of a severe economic, social, political, and environmental crisis — a situation many regard as being so dire that it is an extreme challenge to even predict what the next year will look like.
The Leader then asked the Expediency Discernment Council, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, members of the current administration, the Supreme National Security Council, universities and key seminaries to review the document and provide the Center for Islamic Iranian Model of Progress with their suggestions. The aim is to finalize the document in two years, setting out a blueprint for the next 50 years.
According to the Supreme Leader’s office, the draft was a collective effort of thousands of academicians, mullahs, and bright young minds. The authors have braced themselves amid some experts’ gloomy predictions about the country’s future and even appear to have completely ignored the current challenges the country faces. Instead, they have depicted a utopian future with no link to reality, a fantasy scenario bolstered by nostalgia.
But however far-fetched and out of touch the core elements of the document might be, the language is familiar, a set of placatory reassurances that give a clear indication of the document’s intended audience: Iran’s current political and religious elite.
“By 2065 (1444 in the Iranian calendar), Iran will be a significant international player, producing Islamic liberal arts and creating a transcendental culture." It is important to remember that here, liberal arts refers to "Islamic liberal arts," which includes sociology, psychology, management, economics, mathematics, political science, history and so on, all with a focus on Islamic texts to teach rather than drawing on modern academic and scientific texts.
The plan continues, stating that Iran "will be among the top five countries in the world in the production of ideas, science, and technologies. Its economy will be science-based, self-sufficient, with roots in rationality and Islamic spirituality that will lift Iran’s economy to be among the top 10 strongest economies in the world. By then, the environment, natural resources, clean water, energy, and food safety will be no problem anywhere in the country and everyone will equally benefit from these resources. New resources will be discovered, and a surplus of opportunities will be created that leaves no one empty-handed. Poverty, corruption, and discrimination will be abolished from the country and a national base income, universal free health care and easy access to a fair judicial system will be available for every citizen.”
Perhaps someone should ask the authors of the report a few questions. If they are envisioning a plan for the next 50 years, why not put Iran among the top five or even number one when it comes to the most powerful economic power in the world? Why just the top 10? In this great future, why will people even need a basic income or free healthcare? Why can’t the Salt Lake of Qom be filled with drinkable water by 2065? Or why not conjur up a rainforest instead of the Lut desert?
More ridiculous than these visions is the reference to “effective measures to achieve these goals” — terminology that means nothing, apart from being among the Supreme Leader’s favorite catchphrases. All this while six years remain on the country’s last 20-year plan, a completely failed vision that got nowhere near its set goals. The failure of that document, along with the similar realities of even shorter five-year plans, should have been enough to convince the authors to take a realistic approach when preparing such publications, but it did quite the opposite. Apparently, these failures gave them reason to be more optimistic when it came to planning the future.
To see how far from reality the document is, it is sufficient to examine the possibility that Iran could become one of the top 10 economic powers of the world. Even if we assume that the economic progress of all countries except Iran stands still for the next 50 years, Iran’s economy will need to triple in size by 2065 if it is to become a top 10 economy. And yet, the size of Iran’s economy over the last 40 years has barely doubled.
In reality, the world’s other countries are constantly developing their economies as well. Since 1979, the year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the rate of GDP growth among all the world’s countries was 3.1 on average. Therefore, if one takes this fact into account the depicted vision would seem even more impossible.
In 2017, Canada was in tenth place, with a GDP of US$ 1,884 billion (when looking at the GDP, the rates from 2010 were chosen as a base rate to calculate figures in order to compare GDP between different years and to rule out inflation). In the same year, Iran’s GDP was at US$564 billion. If we assume a two percent growth rate on average for Canada’s GDP for the next 50 years, its economy will be 2.7 times bigger than it is today. Therefore, for Iran to catch up, its economy will need to grow 10-fold.
Even in Asia, Iran falls behind China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan, standing in eighth place in terms of the economy, closely followed by Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Considering the significant GDP growth rates of Indonesia, Thailand, and the UAE, it would be a huge achievement if Iran can simply hold its current rank.
Portrait of the Authors
The 1444 Iranian vision was created by the Center for the Islamic Iranian Model of Progress. The center was established on May 23, 2011 by order of the Supreme Leader. At the same time, the Leader appointed Sadegh Vaez-zadeh as the center's director, as well as appointing nine members to the center's managing council.
Vaez-zadeh is Ayatollah Khamenei’s cousin. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and, during the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he held the post of science deputy to the president. He is also a member of both the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and the Expediency Discernment Council, the members of which are also appointed by the Supreme Leader.
Ali-Akbar Ershad is a member of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and the director of the Research Center for Islamic Culture and Thoughts. He is also the director of Imam Reza Seminary, and the head of Tehran’s Seminaries Council.
Ahmad Vaezi is the head of the Public Relations Office of Qom Seminary, a faculty member of Baqer-al-Olum University, and is on the board of trustees of the Islamic Promotion Organization. He is the brother of Mahmoud Vaezi, President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff.
Seyed-Hossein Mir-Moezi is the head of the economic department of the Research Center for Islamic Culture and Thoughts, the director of the Islamic Regimes Research Center, as well as of Qom Seminary’s Scientific Association of Islamic Economy Scholars.
Parviz Davoodi was the first vice president during Ahmadinejad’s first term and is currently the head of the Strategic Research Center of the President’s Office. He also is a member of the Expediency Discernment Council.
Seyed-Mansoor Khalili Araqi is an economics professor and the former dean of Tehran University.
Mohammad-Hadi Zahedi-Vafa is an economics graduate of Imam Sadegh University and Ottawa University. Currently he is the dean of Islamic Studies and the Economics department at Imam Sadegh University. He was the economic advisor for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance during Ahmadinejad’s first administration.
Hadi Akbarzadeh is a physics professor at Isfahan University of Technology.
Saeed Jabal-Ameli is a faculty member at Iran University of Science and Technology and was president of the university between 2006 and 2013. The university was an important support to Ahmadinejad’s administration, since many of the president’s cabinet members were also faculty members of the university, including Jabal-Ameli.
Habib-Allah Mir-Qafoori is the dean of the Science and Art University, which is a subsidiary of the Academic Center for Education, Culture, and Research. Not much information is available about him other than he graduated in industrial management with a focus on manufacturing and operations.
The Vision for the Next 50 Years
The authors of the Islamic Iranian Model of Progress claim that thousands of intellectuals and academicians contributed to the draft document. But in addition to the fact that the document shows no signs of any scientific work, a review of Iran’s budget records reveals that a large sum of money was dedicated to the project.
Between 2012 and 2018, at least 500 billion Iranian rials were allocated to the center to spend on “deepening the thoughts,” “building doctrines,” and “creating the Islamic Model of Progress.”
In the budget for 2018, 80 billion rials were set aside for the center. In 2017, the budget allocated 70 billion rials; a spending of 65 billion took place in 2016, 60 billion in 2015, and 50 billion put aside in 2014 for the same project, although it was referred to by a different name and drew funds from a different area of the budget. In 2013, the last year of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, 78.4 billion rials were devoted to the project. In the first year of the project, 2012, an allocation of 100 billion rials went toward setting out this particular vision of Iran’s future.