By Mustafa Melih Ahishali
TEHRAN (AA) – Prominent Iranian economist Saeed Laylaz has urged the Iranian authorities to work on luring foreign investment into the country with the aim of helping local business.
"Iran should be open to foreign investment with a view to supporting domestic commerce," Laylaz told Anadolu Agency in exclusive comments.
He believes an influx of foreign investment will help aid the country’s foundering development process.
"Critics might think development can be tackled by local investment," said Laylaz, who served as adviser to former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during the latter’s term in office.
"But since the state suffers from a lack of money, it can’t afford to create local businesses -- that’s why foreigners should be invited in," he added.
Laylaz believes that fostering a "favorable political and social environment" in Iran will help lure foreign investment to the Islamic republic.
"Unless you create a safe and secure political and social environment, it’s not possible to attract foreign investment," he said, noting that unemployment rates in Iran currently stood at 13 percent.
Last year, Iran and six world powers -- the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany and the U.K. -- signed a landmark deal aimed at regulating Tehran’s nuclear-energy program.
While western states accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear arsenal, Tehran insists that its nuclear program is intended primarily for electricity generation.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
The U.S., however, has left some sanctions in place due to what it describes as Iran’s "destabilizing activities" in the region, alleged support for terrorism, and ongoing ballistic missile program.
Tehran complains that the sanctions have continued to prevent it from fully benefiting from last year’s nuclear deal.
Laylaz, for his part, criticized statements attributed to Iranian army officials in which they rejected the notion of cooperating with foreigners.
"Such assertions scare off foreigners and damage the country’s political stability," he said, going on to censure the state’s large role in the national economy.
"There is no transparency due to the state’s ongoing engagement in business and limited political freedoms," he said.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Ahmet Sait Akcay contributed to this report from Ankara