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Evaluating Iran’s Position Two Decades into Khamenei’s Ambitious Economic Blueprint

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In 2003, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, Ali Khamenei, introduced a plan titled “Iran’s 20-Year Vision” through the Expediency Council. In 2005, then-President Mohammad Khatami was officially mandated to implement the strategy, which outlined five periods of four-year terms and was supposed to be continued with Khatami’s successors. The goal was for Iran to become the leading power in the economic, scientific, and technological fields in the region by the year 2025.

However, as of now, the clerical dictatorship has experienced significant regression in all human and social indicators. The only notable exceptions are the widening class gap, socio-political oppression, and an increase in warmongering activities in the region.

In these years, possessing the resources of one of the world’s wealthiest countries, successive governments diverted the capital of the Iranian people into their own pockets and those of their families. Through investments in terrorism, missile, and nuclear programs, they have impoverished Iran and thrown the Middle East into turmoil.

On November 19, in an article titled “Not Becoming the Leading Power,” the state-run newspaper Hammihan declared, “As of today, after 18 years, we not only have fallen short of attaining the status of the leading power in the region, but we find ourselves searching for our place among the nations at the bottom of the list. The political changes outlined in the 20-year outlook plan have demoted Iran from its position as the primary power in the region to the lower echelons of countries.”

In 2013, three years prior to the discovery of his body in a luxurious swimming pool in northern Tehran, former regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani remarked, “Presently, you can observe the extent to which we have strayed from the envisaged plans outlined in the long-term vision document and our current situation. Our economy has contracted, our people have experienced impoverishment, and we have forfeited numerous opportunities in this regard.”

After years of trying to mislead both domestic and international audiences, former President Mohammad Khatami conceded that the regime’s project had failed. He expressed, “In the current situation, achieving the goals outlined in the long-term vision document is not feasible.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who during his presidency enjoyed the highest oil revenues in Iran’s history and spent over $800 billion from the country’s reserves, also recognized that the regime had strayed from its ambitious, imaginary goals.

Hassan Rouhani also initially claimed that he could realize such a plan. In 2007, when he was the head of the Center for Strategic Research of the Expediency Discernment Council, he stated at the national conference, “The Expediency Discernment Council made a very important decision in the early 80s, considering the 20-Year Vision document as something akin to a national strategy.”

However, years later, he became part of the group acknowledging the failure and engaged in the blame game.

As reported by the Arman Emrooz newspaper on November 18, in the global competition for the well-being, freedom, and comfort of their citizens, the Iranian regime finds itself at the bottom of international indices. Despite having access to the best and most valuable resources, which are exploited by the ruling factions, it consistently ranks near the bottom in various global assessments. According to the Legatum Global Ranking, a measure of well-being and democratic governance, Iran is positioned at 126 out of 167 countries. Specifically, in the categories of organizational conditions, personal freedoms, and governance, Iran ranks at 162, 165, and 146 worldwide, respectively.

Another indicator is the status of household expenses and incomes. Data from the Statistical Center of Iran indicates that people under oppression in Iran are solely focused on survival and having shelter. The state-run newspaper Jahane Sanat wrote on November 15, “The results of the household expense and income situation show that in recent years, the share of housing and food expenses has increased, while other expenditures such as health, recreation, education, and clothing have decreased.”

To gauge the intensification of poverty and hardship in Iran, one can examine the Legatum Prosperity Index over the past five years, revealing the stark contrast with the ambitious vision put forth by Khamenei.

This issue has consistently been brought to attention by both the regime’s media and its experts. A piece in the weekly magazine Tajaarat Farda on December 21, 2019, stated, “Iran’s welfare performance, much like in previous years, lacks brilliance. Despite experiencing a two-step decline compared to the preceding year, Iran maintains its three-digit prosperity ranking, reverting to its position from a decade ago, now standing at 119th on the table. Notably, none of the Legatum reports acknowledges Iran as a country witnessing significant improvements in prosperity across its various dimensions. It is disheartening to realize that Iran’s well-being ranks lower than that of countries like Kenya and Zambia, with Myanmar leading in prosperity this year, followed by Togo and Kyrgyzstan. Despite this, we continue to grapple with a deficit in prosperity.”

The democracy governance index reveals a decline in the quality of governance in the country over the past 10 years, moving from rank 134 to 138. The erosion of individual freedom (rank 163) and the loss of social capital have reached a point where only four countries—Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, and Syria—have worse conditions than Iran. Notably, even South Sudan, situated at the bottom of the table, experiences higher levels of individual freedom than Iran by three ranks.

On November 19, Hammihan newspaper wrote, “Unfortunately, the reality is that not only have we failed to make progress compared to the early years of implementing this document, and the specified vision indicators have not been achieved, but we have also regressed significantly in a considerable portion of the indicators and objectives. Unfortunately, the reality is that we have not made progress compared to the early years of implementing this document.”