1258 GMT February 21, 2018
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Gholam-Hossein Ebrahimi, who has served as Iran's political attaché in the Kingdom of Jordan and the first secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Poland and Lithuania, touches upon the province's advantages for foreign investors, some of its problems, tourist attractions and development priorities.
Ebrahimi, who has also been in charge of the political desks of Tunisia, Malaysia and Indonesia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, elaborates on the aims of the Foreign Ministry in setting up an office in the province.
The full text of the interview follows:
IRAN DAILY: What do you think is the Foreign Ministry's aim in establishing an office in Birjand (South Khorasan province)?
GHOLAM-HOSSEIN EBRAHIMI: The main goals are to internationalize the province's activities, improve the work culture among local officials to prepare them for international activities, increase the province's dynamism to accelerate the country's growth and development, bolster border transactions with Afghanistan and attract foreign investments.
What are the main activities and responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry's provincial offices?
They mainly focus on consular activities to resolve people's problems, do away with the need to travel to Tehran for these purposes. The activities include validating the documents of university students who intend to continue their studies abroad, process trade and medical documents and issue or extend visas for foreign residents in the provinces from which international flights operate such as Khorasan Razavi or Isfahan. The offices are also responsible for increasing the province's international economic activities by dispatching or receiving trade delegations or helping domestic companies take part in international exhibitions.
What are the province's economic advantages for other countries?
I can list five main advantages. The first one is that 38 minerals are extracted in the province which makes the country rank eighth in the world in this respect.
The province's second advantage pertains to its abundant production of high-quality agricultural and horticultural products including saffron, barberries, jujube, saffron, cotton, pomegranate and medical herbs.
The third is related to the province's deserts which have unique characteristics. For instance, Heydar-Abad desert in Nahbandan has the world's highest sand dunes, some of which are 480 meters high. Moreover, the night sky of the Se-Qaleh desert provides tourists with an opportunity to view stars for astrological purposes. Hemmat-Abad desert is another example of a great biodiversity. Other deserts of the province with potentials and qualities for tourist attraction are Deh-Salam, Boshrooyeh and Tabas.
Other popular attractions of South Khorasan are: Ferdows Jame' Mosque, Ferdows Theological School, Nehbandan Citadel, Forg Fortress, Kolah Farangi Mansion in Birjand, Chahar-Derakht Mosque, Amirabad Garden, Behgard Garden, Chenshat cave, Birjand Jame' Mosque, Imamzadeh Musa al-Kadhim, Alam Palace and Deragon Cave in Sarayan.
The fourth advantage of the province is its educated human resources. There are six main universities and 14 educational centers in the province that accommodate 42,000 students in the province, which is considered the eastern scientific hub of the country.
The fifth pertains to its high security. South Khorasan is among the country's top three provinces in this respect.
What incentives or facilities does the province offer to foreign investors? Can you list some of its infrastructures?
Perhaps, the province's main incentive for foreign investors is its strategic location since it lies along the country's east transit route linking Sarakhs to Chabahar. It also has four active border markets on the joint borders with Afghanistan turning it into Iran's main export gateway to Kabul and border provinces of Herat and Farah.
In the year to March 20, 2014, South Khorasan exported $700 million worth of products to Afghanistan accounting for about one-third of Iran's total exports to that country in the same period which amounted to $2.4 billion.
In addition, Birjand Special Economic Zone provides foreign investors with favorable facilities on the country's border strip and in the proximity of Birjand. Currently, investment opportunities in the province pertain to textiles, handicrafts, construction materials, agricultural and horticultural products and medical herbs as well as packaging foodstuff, developing small industries and processing minerals.
Foreign investors can also invest in the provinces tourist attractions such as deserts and unique hot mineral springs including Lut and Ferdows which are used for hydrotherapy in the province.
In view of President Rouhani's upcoming trip to the province, what would be the priorities to come up for discussion?
Despite all the natural wealth the province has, it is one of the country's poorest and less developed regions. Therefore, its priorities are mainly economic including improving employment, supporting small workshops, developing industries with low water consumption and those related to processing minerals or producing horticultural and agricultural produces, widening the main highway in the east of the country, launching the province's railroad project, enabling the province to offer incentives to foreign investors, improving tourist infrastructures, installing equipments for Birjand Special Economic Zone and even establishing new free zones, completing the province's gas pipelines network, financing hygiene and health projects and completing construction of Mahiroud border road.