Economy of Iran

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Iran > Map Economy History

Pre-revolutionary Iran's economic development was rapid. Traditionally an agricultural society, by the 1970s, Iran had achieved significant industrialization and economic modernization. However, the pace of growth had slowed dramatically by 1978, just before the Islamic revolution.

Since the revolution, increased government involvement in the economy has further stunted growth. Iran's current difficulties can be traced to a combination of factors. Economic activity, severely disrupted by the revolution, was further depressed by the war with Iraq and by the decline of oil prices beginning in late 1985. After the war with Iraq ended, the situation began to improve: Iran's GDP grew for 2 years running, partly from an oil windfall in 1990, and there was a substantial increase in imports.

A decrease in oil revenues in 1991 and growing external debt, though, dampened optimism. In March 1989, Khomeini had approved Rafsanjani's 5-year plan for economic development, which allowed Iran to seek foreign loans. But mismanagement and inefficient bureaucracy, as well as political and ideological infighting, have hampered the formulation and execution of coherent economic policies. Today, Iranís economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and smallscale private trading and service ventures. President Khatami has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President Rafsanjani and has indicated that he will pursue diversification of Iranís oil-reliant economy, although he has made little progress toward that goal.

Official unemployment was estimated to be 14% for 1999. Although Islam guarantees the right to private ownership, banks and some industries--including the petroleum, transportation, utilities, and mining sectors--were nationalized after the revolution, although Iran has been pursuing some privatization. (Oil price and debt problems are no longer relevant.) The import-dependent industrial sector is further plagued by low labor productivity, lack of foreign exchange, and shortages of raw materials and spare parts.

Agriculture also has suffered from shortages of capital, raw materials, and equipment, as well as from the war with Iraq; in addition, a major area of dissension within the regime has been how to proceed with land reform.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $413 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $6,300 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture:  24%
industry:  28%
services:  48% (2000 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 16% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 17.3 million
note:  shortage of skilled labor (1998)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 33%, industry 25%, services 42% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 14% (1999 est.)
revenues:  $27 billion
expenditures:  $27 billion (1999)
Industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), metal fabricating, armaments
Industrial production growth rate: 4.4% (nonoil) (1999)
Electricity - production: 103.054 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel:  93.16%
hydro:  6.84%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Agriculture - products: wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar
Exports: $25 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum 85%, carpets, fruits and nuts, iron and steel, chemicals
Exports - partners: Japan, Italy, UAE, South Korea, France, China
Imports: $15 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports - commodities: industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services, military supplies
Imports - partners: Germany, South Korea, Italy, UAE, France, Japan
Debt - external: $7.5 billion (2000 est.)
Economic aid - recipient: $116.5 million (1995)
Currency: Iranian rial (IRR)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Iran > Map Economy History