By Iran Review
By Ali Biniaz*
Iran is an energy giant in global scale. Just in terms of natural gas resources, conventional estimates by the Shell and BP have indicated that given the current rate of production, Iran will have natural gas resources for the next 220 years. This estimate will go much higher if one can count on some unpublished estimates in the US which tells Iran may have gas for the next 600 years.
Of course, no one is sure that how long the current global fashion of energy use will remain in place. Nevertheless as a nearly clean source of energy with a potential convertibility into hydrogen for car fueling and prevailing speculation over “Secular Stagnation” in the world’s production pattern, it is not unsafe to say that natural gas will remain the energy of 21st century. If so, then for sure the relevance of Iran’s energy capabilities along with Russia giant gas would be critical for the economic development of the SCO and its economic region’s formation and viability. Energy is a powerful engine of growth and with it move capital and technology, and hence prosperity, into geographical regions.
But beyond the significance of energy, one can say that the importance of Iran’s contribution towards the SCO’s economic zone formation may have something to do with economic innovation and flourishing an environment in which indigenous patterns of self-fashioning consistent with economic development and boosting economic growth could be possible.
The fact of the matter is that world seems to be in a state of suffering from two following setbacks with significant repercussions for the formation of the SCO’s economic region:
The first setback is originating from the developed countries and rich regions’ exhaustion and lack of their ability to generate “any better model of cooperation and integration than the failed model they have been offering for the past 35 years,” as mentioned in a commentary by Mark Weisbrot, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington titled: “Obama fails to recognize China’s success” in the Global Times of October 13, 2016. The Author further elaborates: “That is a big part of the problem. But fortunately, their [i.e. western models of economic development] influence is diminishing.”
The second setback is an apparent hesitancy that some scholars very recently feel with regards to the economic behavior of some BRICS member states. For instance, suggesting that BRICS members should open their economies towards China in return for enjoying the benefit of access to Chinese big domestic consumer market, Hu Weijia in a commentary in the Global Times of October 13, 2016, concludes as following: “China is speeding up its effort to foster a high standard global free trade network, and has signed 14 free trade agreements with countries and regions including Australia and South Korea. Hopefully, the other BRICS countries will not fall too far behind in terms of sharing the fast-growing domestic market in the world’s second largest economy.”
This hesitancy appears to be shared by Chu Yin, an Associate Professor at the University of International Relations and Researcher at the Center for China and Globalization, in a more fresh commentary in the Global Times of October 17, 2016 titled: “BRICS create balancing influence in world affairs.”
The Commentary reads: “India, Brazil and Russia have not always been truly open in the fields of taxation, labor protection and foreign exchange control, and there are some narrow-minded populist sentiments opposing Chinese investment in these countries. On top of that, despite the well-established industrial chains within BRICS nations, some of them still hold impractical views about building their own systems and excluding China’s influence. If such impediments can’t be removed, it will be hard for the BRICS to embark upon fully open development.”
This climate shows that the problem of economic growth, Globalization and international free trade are more serious than earlier imagined and may remain in place for quite some time in future. Therefore, the SCO member states should think more carefully on how to run the bloc and boost economic aspirations by deploying a right economic model. A model that not only successfully pushes aside the harmful greediness embedded in the liberal narrow-minded models of “profit maximization” and “cost minimization” of the west, but also infuses social capital and regional trust needed to run a highly resilient regional integration and stability. If such an approach is something that the bloc is looking for, surely Iran’s contribution would be blessing.
The significance of Iran’s contribution towards the SCO’e economic region goes up naturally with the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the group that has already been taken care, especially that by conclusion of the JPOA and nullification of the western fabricated Iran’s nuclear crisis and hence economic and financial sanctions, Iran is now better positioned to experience a steady rise, both spiritually and economically. If so, this momentum should be shared regionally and on a common civilizational sphere and basis.
All in all, looking from a long time span in the past, either from 218 years ago that on Chas W. Freeman’s account, Napoleon was preparing to take Malta to clear an obstacle to his seizure of Egypt for revolutionary France, or a different account of near coincidence between invention of the American land and the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, it is now, however, clear that Iran’s contribution towards cultural as well as economic aspects of future life in the SCO’s region, either from within or from without is an imperative and natural dynamics.
The reason is that as Chas W. Freeman, Senior Fellow in Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs earlier indicated in a speech: Not only Napoleon’s campaign in the Middle East to kick off and hold a two-century long effort by the West to transform the Middle East and convert Arabs, Persians, and Turks to the secular values of the European Enlightenment, but also those of the European imperial powers and latterly, the United States, have now all definitively failed. The New Middle East is defined definitely with Iran at its center of powerful dynamics, soon or late.
Therefore, time appears to have been ripe for a powerful SCO’s economic region through combining efforts and unfolding a new method of thinking and economic modeling in order to boost sustainable generosity, social capital and prosperity in the region. Within this constellation, Iran should be of some help.
* Ali Biniaz, PhD in Economics, IPIS Representative and First Counselor for Research, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Beijing