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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion at the recent Davos World Economic Forum that Iran can become one of the world's top 10 economies attracted even more attention back home in Iran than his insistence that Iran would not dismantle a single centrifuge.True, Rouhani gave a time frame of 30 years, but reaching the top 10 would still be a leap. By the early 20th century, many Iranian intellectuals believed Iran was held back by a combination of lethargic kings and conniving foreign powers.Growth averaged 5.5 percent from 1996 to 2007, then fell, and after U.S. and European Union sanctions halved oil exports after 2012, the economy shrank 5.8 percent in the year 2012-13 and is still shrinking.The key challenge for Iran, even if all sanctions end, is to invest productively its oil revenue, which has often disappeared into current spending.Second, Iran needs investment, both to extract energy reserves – especially gas – and to achieve growth.So, a third challenge for Rouhani will be building a more open economy.If Iran made the top 10, Rouhani may argue, the size of the cake could allow everyone a bigger slice.
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