Leader’s Address to People Active in Economic Sector

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on August 18, 2011 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with a number of people from economic sectors of the country.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

First of all, I would like to welcome you dear friends who are active in different economic sectors of the country. From one perspective, today's meeting is a symbolic meeting. The meeting is the symbol of the government's serious attention to the issue of economy in the current sensitive conditions of the world, the region and the country. This was my primary purpose for holding this meeting. I wanted to arrange a meeting in the month of Ramadan with those who are active in public and private economic sectors. I wanted to spend a few hours listening to them and I wanted the meeting to be reflected by our domestic media as a sign that the Islamic Republic should pay serious attention to the issue of economy, economic activities and economic progress and that the government and the people should cooperate and make efforts in this regard for reasons which I will speak about later on.

Thankfully there are thinking and prominent people in all sectors and some of them have been invited to this meeting. This was the first purpose and it has already been fulfilled because the meeting will be reflected in the media. This is a message to everybody - including government officials in economic sectors, those who are active in economic sectors throughout the country and all our people. The message is that today we should pay serious attention to the issue of economy.

The second purpose of this meeting - which has thankfully been fulfilled - was to get those who do not work for the government to present the people with a report about the realities in the country, the advances that have been made and the activities that are being carried out. This is not to say that I believe the advances should be repeatedly reported. No, everybody knows my opinion in this regard. I believe that we should see both the positive and the negative points. But I believe today the important point is that our people should know what outcomes their efforts, the efforts of our government officials and the enormous human capacities in the country have produced.

You should know that I am in contact with the people: they do not know about these advances. The majority of the people do not know about what you said today about different areas. I took notes and by Allah's favor, a detailed report will be prepared. We see that great achievements are being made in the country and the honor belongs to the Iranian nation. It is the people who are doing these things. It is thinking minds that are doing these things. It is different scientific and technological figures and designers who are giving rise to all these achievements. We have made good advances in sectors related to production, services, agriculture, industry, knowledge-based industries and different other areas which were discussed in this meeting. It is good if people hear these things from individuals in charge of different sectors who are independent of the government. These things would make the people hopeful and happy.

All of us should pay attention to the point that one of the techniques that the enemies of the Iranian nation use in their psychological warfare is to spread despair among the people. I stress this point. They want to discourage our young generation and our active people - who undoubtedly enjoy an advantage compared to general global norms. One of the methods is to spread despair. They want to say, "This is useless. Nothing has been, or will be, done."

Of course negative points should also be mentioned. Flaws and shortcomings should also be mentioned. But all these things should be pointed out in a constructive tone. When pointing out the shortcomings, your tone makes a lot of difference. The tone should not undermine the existing hope and determination. The tone should convey the feeling that, for example, forty percent of the job has been done and that the ground has been prepared for the other sixty percent to be done. Of course the tone should suggest that sixty percent of the job has not been done yet and that a concerted effort should be made to complete the job. This is how the tone should be. Fortunately this meeting has fulfilled this purpose as well.

I would only like to mention a few short points. One point is that I named this year "The Year of Economic Jihad". The policy of the arrogant powers is to defeat the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic by using the economy. Although the sanctions have been imposed on us under the pretext of the nuclear issue, they are lying. The nuclear issue is not the reason behind the sanctions. You may remember that the major sanctions which were initially imposed on our country happened at a time when there was no mention of nuclear energy in the country. For example, the sanctions known as the "D'Amato-Kennedy Bill" - which were of course not very important and were proposed and followed up in the US Congress by somebody called D'Amato - were passed when the issue of nuclear energy was not even being discussed. The goal of the sanctions that have been imposed on us is to cripple our economy. Of course the Iranian nation has the honor of having tolerated these sanctions for 32 years.

Of course the sanctions that have been imposed on us during the recent years have grown in number and variety. However, the growth is insignificant compared to the growth in the number and variety of constructive activities in the country. Thirty years ago when they started imposing sanctions on us, their sanctions were more likely to hurt us than the sanctions that they currently impose on us and they repeatedly promise that they will increase their sanctions. This means that we have gradually developed a kind of immunity to sanctions. We can now deal with sanctions in different ways. We can circumvent sanctions - which is a good, interesting and subtle technique and it is good if our government and nation use this technique. Similarly, we can turn to our domestic capacities - which is a fundamental measure that we should definitely adopt and we have been doing so. Therefore, the goal of the enemy is to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees. That is to say, the enemy is trying to defeat Islamic Iran. He is trying to defeat a nation that has helped its government move forward through its presence and support. So it is necessary to be fully prepared against the enemy. It is necessary to become familiar with the opposing camp. It is necessary to become familiar with the enemy's tools and weapons and to prepare weapons that would make his weapons ineffective. This requires economic jihad. What does jihad mean? Not all activities can be called jihad. Only certain kinds of activities with certain characteristics can be called jihad. One of these characteristics is to know that the activity is being carried out against an enemy. That is to say, it is necessary to know that the activity is being done against an aggressive and spiteful move. One of the main characteristics of jihad is being faced with an aggressive position.

The second characteristic that should definitely be taken into consideration is persistence, comprehensiveness, shrewdness and sincerity. An activity with such characteristics can be called jihad. Therefore, economic jihad means the Iranian nation's persistent, comprehensive and purposeful movement with the intention of rendering the aggressive and spiteful efforts of the enemy ineffective.

The next point is that in the 20-Year Strategic Plan - which is an essential and high-level document for reference - our country is supposed to achieve the top position in the region in important and vital areas. We need to achieve this position. Naturally others will not stand by and watch us achieve the first position. They are working hard. They are making efforts as well. We are witness to strenuous economic efforts by some of the regional countries in areas in which we want to become the top country. Of course we are not using some of the means that they are currently using and we will never do so. We will move forward in a nobler and more honorable way. But we believe that it is possible to achieve the top position only if we move ahead in a faster and more disciplined way. Therefore, this requires jihad. We need both speed and prudence so that we can achieve the first position. Becoming the top country in the region is not just a whim. No, we want to become the top country because the destiny of our nation depends on it. If a country fails to fulfill its needs and make progress in the area of economy, knowledge and infrastructure that are necessary for progress, it will be oppressed in a merciless way. We do not want to be oppressed. Our country has been subjected to oppression and transgression for two hundred years. This oppression was the result of the weakness of incompetent, corrupt and materialistic monarchies and the dynamism that their enemies enjoyed. The English first infiltrated and interfered in the political system of our country in the year 1800. They recruited supporters for themselves. And certain other European countries accompanied them and did the same things. In the year 1800 when the first English ambassador entered our country, he started to bribe people and buy supporters as soon as he got off the ship in the city of Bushehr. The ambassador was coming from India. It was when the English had the Indian government under control. He could easily buy supporters. All those princes, emirs and other people with such impressive-sounding titles gave in to the presents of the ambassador. The process of oppression by the enemies started from that day. Our weak statesmen let the enemy infiltrate the country on that day. We do not want this process to continue. The Revolution has presented them with an insurmountable obstacle. We want to strengthen this obstacle.

We must not at all allow them to interfere in our economy, culture, politics and destiny. This requires that we develop domestic strength. Economy is one of the important pillars of this domestic strength. This is why we say we must become the top country in the region. It is not just a whim. No, the destiny of our nation depends on it. Therefore, persistent, clever, sincere and effective efforts - which utilize all capacities of the country - play a role in this regard.

It is a fact that our country enjoys enormous potential. Our country enjoys extraordinary potential. In terms of human resources, we enjoy outstanding potential in the world. It is necessary to exploit this potential. Today we can see these things. Of course I used to hear from well-informed people - who were either knowledgeable or had experience with certain scientific organizations of the world - that Iranians enjoy potentialities and intellectual capacities that are above the average global level. This was what I had heard and I saw it for myself after the Revolution and the resultant advances in the country. Building dams was the example that was mentioned in this meeting. Before the Revolution, nobody would have believed the progress that has been made in the country in the area of building dams. The gentleman who spoke in this meeting referred to building dams as an example, but the same is true of many other areas. There was a day when it was impossible to convince people that such scientific progress would be made in the country. Today we can see these advances in front of our eyes. I have realized through experience that there is nothing that our youth are incapable of doing when the necessary infrastructure has been prepared. Any thing for which the necessary infrastructure has been prepared can be done by our youth. We enjoy such human resources in the country. This is a very important point.

Our economic potential is also very important. Once I said that considering the proportion of our population to the population of the world, we enjoy a disproportionately large number of vital mines and natural resources. Our people make up around one percent of the population of the world. Similarly the area of our country is around one percent of the total land area of our planet. Well, we should have one percent of the total essential natural resources, but in certain cases we have 3, 4 or 5 percent of the total resources. These are important capacities and they are very valuable.

The shortage of water in the country that has been rightly pointed out can be fully addressed with clever scientific and technological plans. Some of the friends who spoke in this meeting mentioned this point and I have made the same point previously. With a little care and progress, we can compensate for the shortcoming that we are suffering from. Therefore, our country has genuinely extraordinary capacities in terms of natural resources.

The same is true of our geographical position. Our country is in a sensitive geographical location. We are connected to two different seas. We are connected to international waters and the sensitive region that lies between the east and the west - namely, Asia and Europe. We are located in one of the most important spots of this sensitive region. The two seas provide us access to the west and the east. These are all advantages that we enjoy. These are the potential of the country. We need to exploit this potential. This requires efforts.

As was mentioned, one fourth of the time for the 20-Year Strategic Plan has passed. One four-year plan - namely, the fourth development plan - is over. This year is the first year of the fifth development plan. Of course many things were done during the fourth development plan. According to the accurate reports that were presented in this meeting, very important things have been done. But there are certain other things that have not been done yet. The policies are appropriate. The policies that have been announced regarding reforming the norms of consumption, the general policies of our bureaucratic system, the general employment policies and the policies specified in Article 44 of the Constitution - all these policies are in harmony. If we manage to formulate and implement the plan on the basis of these policies, we will manage to make far better use of the capacities that I spoke about. These policies create a kind of cohesion and this cohesion between different layers ensures economic dynamism.

Of course some of the goals that had been specified in the fourth development plan were not achieved. Many factors were involved: both domestic and international issues were involved. Among the goals that have not been achieved are the 8 percent growth, reducing unemployment, the percentage of investment that had been specified and the issue of reducing inflation which I spoke about previously. This makes it necessary for us to intensify our efforts over the five-year course of the fifth development plan. We need to intensify our labor so that we can compensate for the past shortcomings.

Of course we had a great goal in mind when announcing the policies specified in Article 44 of the Constitution and we still have this goal. By Allah's favor, the goal will be pursued. According to Article 44 of the Constitution, we had to limit the ownership and economic activities of the government and we did so. What was the goal? The goal was to create a competitive economy with the presence of the private sector and its investments in the economy of the country. According to calculations, the amount of money that is required for investment over this five-year period is around 160 billion dollars. The government cannot provide this amount of money. It is necessary for the private sector to step in and cooperate with the government. And this is something that must be done.

Good things have been done regarding the implementation of the policies specified in Article 44 of the Constitution, but what has been done so far is not enough. It is necessary to improve our performance. It is not just a matter of privatizing economic enterprises and leaving the arena. There are other things that have to be done besides the efforts to privatize public enterprises. It is necessary to empower the private sector. It is necessary to prepare the ground so that the private sector can have effective management. It is necessary to have supervision mechanisms in order to prevent abuse.

Healthy activities are always accompanied by unhealthy activities. I have been stressing the issue of economic corruption for several years. When I first pointed out the issue, a number of people came to me and said that because I was stressing the issue of economic corruption, our investors might be frightened to enter economic activities. I told them that my comments would have the opposite effect and that investors would be encouraged to engage in economic activities. If an investor who wants to engage in a lawful and honorable business knows that the government will prosecute those who violate the law, he will be encouraged more. We are opposed to those who give rise to corruption and those who abuse their position. An investor who helps the country through his presence, his ideas, his money, his investments and his entrepreneurial activities, should be encouraged and praised. Therefore, fighting economic corruption is an essential principle in this regard and it is necessary to observe this principle.

Fortunately all or most of our ministers and government officials in charge of economic activities are present in this meeting. Well, you heard the comments of those who spoke in this meeting: both the comments about your strengths and the suggestions which were indicative of the existence of certain shortcomings. I hereby ask our government officials to carefully think about the comments they heard today. We must not let comments be made and then do nothing. Mr. Tavakkoli complained that you did not mention the negative points. I would disagree with him because when you suggest that a certain thing should be done, it means that it has not been done yet and this shows that there are certain shortcomings and problems. He should only pay careful attention to the suggestions which were made in this meeting and I believe they were good suggestions that deserve investigation.

There are many things that remain to be said in this regard. I will only make a few recommendations. Some of the recommendations will be addressed to governmental organizations and some others are general. The first recommendation is about full implementation of the policies that have been formulated to support the production sector. Production is the basis of economy. Production is the main pillar of our economy. Regarding the subsidy redistribution plan and the enormous efforts that the government is making in this area, attention should be paid to supporting the production sector, just as it has been pointed out in the law - namely, the 30 percent that has been specified. Of course some government officials who spoke with me believe that this 30 percent is not really needed. Certain people who are involved in economic activities also made the same point. They said that the government should just leave them alone and that they will manage to take care of themselves. Certain sectors may not need government support, but in any case production requires support from the government. The production sector should receive its share of support. This is especially true of certain enterprises which are hurt by the sanctions. We have certain enterprises that are directly or indirectly hurt by these sanctions and it is necessary to take this point into consideration.

Of course the private sector has certain obligations to fulfill in this regard: economizing on energy consumption, increasing productivity and using new machinery. Certain government officials complained to me that owners of certain industries are not interested in replacing their old machinery, which produce low output and consume a lot of energy. They complained that even if these people are provided with financial assistance, they will not use it to replace their old machinery with new machinery. It is necessary to pay attention to this point. Needless to say, government supervision is very important in this regard. That is to say, the government should provide support and it should also supervise the companies that it supports. The production sector should be provided with as much financial assistance as has been specified in the law, but care should be taken not to allow the people I spoke about - namely, opportunistic people - to use government's financial assistance for other purposes. I have received reports that different kinds of such diversions have happened in the country. It is necessary to deal with such things in a decisive way so that honest producers who are interested in hard work and production can fulfill their responsibilities.

The next point is the issue of imports which was briefly mentioned in this meeting and which I have discussed on many occasions with government officials in charge of imports. Of course nobody is opposed to importing, but it is necessary to regulate and to control imports. Just because we want certain goods to be available on the market on certain occasions - for example, during Norouz - is not a good justification for increasing imports. It is necessary to pay attention to domestic production when making decisions about imports. Of course it is said that imports contribute to competitiveness of domestic production. It is argued that in the absence of imports, domestic producers would not pay attention to the quality or final price of their products. It is argued that imports encourage domestic producers to pay attention to the quality and final price of their products. I believe the logic behind this argument is not strong. I spoke with certain government officials in this regard.

Regarding the issue of imports, I would like to draw special attention to the agricultural sector. I believe importing agricultural products requires a far stronger justification than is currently presented. In the agricultural sector we produce outstanding products. One of the gentlemen presented a report about our produce. In the area of produce, our country is among the best in the world in terms of quality. We should be able to increase our products. We should export these garden and farm products so that the world understands what is going on in Iran and we must not import the same products with far worse quality from Latin America or other places.

The next point is related to the issue of exports. Of course the government has a duty to support exports and exporters. As one of the gentlemen reported, fortunately there has been a very good growth in non-oil exports and we will have a faster growth in the future. We expect non-oil exports to grow appropriately so that our exports become more than our imports. This is the point we should reach and we should be independent of oil revenues. Dependence on oil revenues is one of the most important economic woes of our country and it has not just plagued our economy: it has been a general problem.

We must reach a point where we can stop our exports due to political or economic considerations for a period of 15 days or one month if we decide to do so. I made this point several years ago, but at that time our government officials did not welcome my suggestion. Notice what a great advantage this would create for an oil-producing country. Imagine that a country could announce it would not export oil for 20 days. Imagine what would happen in the world. Today we cannot do so because we are in need of oil revenues. If one day our economy becomes independent of oil revenues and oil exports, the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic will manage to gain this advantage, which will have an extraordinary effect on the world. This is the point we must reach. Well, this requires support. It is necessary to support exports.

On the other hand, our exporters and those in charge of exports have certain duties to fulfill. Wrong actions of our exporters would show their effect in the case the countries that are the major destinations of our exports. It is bad to send low-quality products and products with unfavorable packaging and it is bad to have delays in delivery. Successful companies throughout the world have managed to keep their customers satisfied for 100 or 150 years. For example, imagine a German or Swiss company that has been selling a certain product for 150 or 160 years and it still has its customers in our country and other countries. Why? Because its customers are satisfied with the product. Because the product is delivered on time. Because it is durable, solid and beautiful enough. Because it offers variety as time passes. Exporters must take these points into consideration. This requires a culture, the culture of developing high-quality products that are supposed to be sent to foreign countries.

The issue of fighting economic corruption is also very important. Unfortunately it always the case that economically corrupt individuals find a foothold in a governmental organization. That is to say, they find somebody to help them. They find somebody to work with them. As long as there is nobody on the inside to help an outsider, that outsider cannot give rise to economic corruption. Therefore, government officials have a responsibility to be extremely sensitive in governmental organizations to the emergence and infiltration of economic corruption. For example, when you examine a sample of chickens on a chicken farm and find out that a certain disease has started in that place, you do not show mercy because you know that if you fail to take action out of consideration for that particular chicken farm, then the consequences will not be limited to a few thousand chickens. You know that the scope of the problem will be much wider. Therefore, you do not hesitate to destroy the chickens. The same is true of corruption. I am addressing to this point to our government officials: if you feel or see that there is a possibility for corruption in governmental organizations, you must not hesitate. If you hesitate, the issue will spread very fast because corruption is highly contagious. Economic corruption is a syndrome that spreads very fast and is highly contagious. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to this point.

Preparing a comprehensive plan for the development of the cooperative sector is one of the things that is absolutely necessary to do. The issue of our cooperative sector has been stressed in the policies specified in Article 44 of the Constitution. We need a complete and comprehensive policy for the cooperative sector and this is something that must be done. The points which were raised by one of the gentlemen about offering banking facilities to small businesses and other such issues can be taken care of through the cooperative sector. That is to say, the best way to take care of these issues is to develop cooperative companies: cooperative companies that are reasonable, legal, healthy and strong. In this way, they can make use of banking facilities. This is practical.

Another essential point is that we must make serious efforts to point out investment opportunities to the private sector. That is to say, those who are active in the private sector should know what the investment opportunities are. Everybody should be informed of the opportunities and the information should not just be available to a particular group of people. If such information is available to only certain people, there will be excellent opportunities for them to take advantage of it. This is because a certain group of people will know that a certain product will flood the market. They will know that a certain product will not be available. They will know that the price of a certain product will be decreased or increased. They will know that a certain law will be passed. Those who have this information will be able to abuse it. Such information should be available to everybody. It is necessary to have a transparent flow of information. Of course this issue was pointed out in previous administrations as well and certain things have been done in the 9th and 10th administrations, but what has been done is not enough. It is necessary to take other actions in this regard.

I have written down other points which I will not discuss because it is almost time for adhan. By Allah's favor, those who love the country, the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic and those who are interested in the future of this nation will be encouraged by this meeting to have a more serious presence in the arena of economic activities. By Allah's favor, they will intensify their efforts in a clever and purposeful way. The slogan of "Intensified Effort and Labor", which I introduced last year, should be considered along with the issue of "Economic Jihad". By Allah's favor, everybody will work hard. The future of the country is bright. The capacities of the country are extraordinary and unique. Thankfully there are many people in the country with good hearts, good determination, good and competent hands and insightful eyes. Our country has far too much potential to be considered a second rate country in the world. Our country should be considered a top country in the world. Our historical background, our cultural heritage, the capabilities of our people, our natural resources - all of these things dictate this fact to us. This is how we should move forward. And by Allah's favor, we will reach that point.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings