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In his Nowruz address, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei claimed that all the country’s economic problems would be fixed through the development of “knowledge-based production.” And accordingly, he declared the new Persian year as the year of knowledge-based production, adding, “To achieve economic growth and reform the economy, we must move toward a knowledge-based economy.”
Khamenei’s remarks come at a time that Iran’s economy is beyond bankruptcy, with millions of people struggling with growing poverty, unemployment, inflation, and skyrocketing prices.
Countries that are successful in knowledge economy or are moving in the right direction meet several key criteria, including an educated and skilled labor force, a dense and modern information technology infrastructure, an effective innovation system, and institutions and laws that support and encourage entrepreneurship.
The countries of the region are acknowledging the growing value of knowledge-based economies, investing in universities, research labs, startups, and emerging technologies.
Knowledge-based economy in Iran
The mullahs’ regime, on the other hand, represents everything that goes against the establishment of a knowledge-based economy in Iran.
Iran is faced with one of the worst global cases of brain drain. The country has a highly educated population, but college and university graduates are largely deprived of employment opportunities, unless they can shortcut their way to success through ties with regime officials and institutions. According to the regime’s state media, 40.3 percent of the country’s unemployed workforce are college and university graduates. This is why many Iranians migrate to other countries, where their talent and skills are much more appreciated.
Moreover, Iran’s economy is largely controlled by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), whose priorities is its own ambitions of domestic and regional power and not the nation’s economic growth. The IRGC’s sway over Iran’s economy has all but stifled all room for the growth of startup ecosystems.
The IRGC’s engagement in terrorism and money laundering is making it impossible for Iran to attract foreign talent and capital to help economic growth.
Therefore, knowledge-based economy is a promising endeavor, but not while Iran is ruled by a regime that is corrupt to the core and does not have the interests of the people in mind. Achieving knowledge-based production would require Khamenei to take fundamental steps that would be the undoing of his tyrannical regime.