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Iran Election: Glued to the News for Two Weeks

Iranian financial wiz and Cass student Ahmad Pouyanfar talks Mousavi, corruption and queuing at the London Islamic Centre

By  Lulu Wang

Sat Jun 13 2009

Ahmad Pouyanfar is one busy Iranian. Over the past two weeks he’s juggled being managing director of a metals trading company while studying for an MSc in mathematical trading at Cass Business School with obsessively watching every report on his country’s presidential election that he can lay his hands on.

Pouyanfar traveled to England for the first time in 2007, for business. Before coming to Cass he was CEO, co-chairman and co-founder of an investment company in Tehran, while teaching finance, investment management and econometrics at Tehran University.

He’s been traveling back and forth since relocating to London. In 2008, he went back to Iran to finish his doctorate in finance at Tehran University, which he started in 2002.
Pouyanfar, 37, spoke to BusinessBecause while driving from his day job as managing director of Standard Metals Limited (UK), to a class at Cass. Here's what he thinks of the election and the business environment in Iran.
Why did you decide to do a Masters degree in finance at Cass if you already have a PhD in it?
I think finance education is different in developing countries compared to developed countries. I want to upgrade my knowledge in finance and use it in the future both in my own country and elsewhere.
How was the election for you?
For the past two weeks I haven’t done any of my projects. I’ve been following the news online and on TV.
Who did you vote for?
I voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi at the Islamic Centre in London. There was a queue of voters. I asked them who they were voting for, and 95% of them were voting for Mousavi. I also talked to my family and friends in Iran. My parents and friends, surprisingly, all said that they’d vote for Mousavi for sure.
Of the four candidates (Ahmadinejad, conservative Mohsen Rezaee, Mousavi, and reformist Mehdi Karroubi) I think Mousavi will bring in pro-market policies that reflect demand and supply, and these policies will hopefully lead to a better business environment in Iran.
So what do you think of Ahmadinejad's victory? 
I thought Mousavi had the highest chance of winning. But some institutions, such as the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (that Ahmadinejad was a member of), will fabricate the results. They did it in 2005.
It’s difficult to practice democracy in a developing country like Iran. There was a lot of progress in democratization from 1997 to 2005, under President Khatami.
How's the Iranian business environment?
[Long sigh followed by hopeless laughter] During the last two years, Iran has had high inflation and bad government decision-making. We expected Mousavi to open up the business environment and have peaceful business development.
Are there any Iranian businessmen or companies that you admire?
[Sigh followed by laughter] I can see nothing at all.
When you were doing business in Iran, what were the major difficulties you encountered?
Our major problem is that our government ignores the law.
Do you have some examples?
The government forces some members of parliament into negotiations and affects their decisions. The Revolutionary Army intervenes in economic transactions.
More than 80% of the enterprises in Iran are under government control.
What about your company in Iran?
It was indirectly controlled by Bank of Saderat, which is government-owned.
Do you want to go back to Iran?
Yes, I will in the near future. I had opportunities to go back already.