Following Military Victory, Syria Plans Economic Reforms – Part III

Dear Readers:

Today we finish up this piece by Said Gafurov.  Tomorrow I think I will have a big treat for you — if I get around to it — a movie review!  I don’t do those very often, but I thought it might be nice to review the (very rare) American movie involving an ensemble cast where the Russian characters are NOT the bad guys!

Preview of coming attraction!

But returning now to the much more serious matter of the Syrian economy:  Yesterday we talked about the credit crunch in Syria, and the reforming of the Syrian banks.  Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis is worried that Syrian banks are not always responsive to the credit needs of businesses and clients.  A word about Khamis:  His wiki entry is rather sparse but mentions this zing:  “The European Union sanctioned Khamis due to his alleged role in using the electric cuts as a way of repressing Syrian people on 24 March 2012.”

Electrical Engineering students, University of Damascus, graduation ceremony

Born in 1961 near Damascus, Khamis earned his degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Damascus in 1981.  Well, I reckon if you’re a brutal dictator like Assad who wants to use Electricity against his own people, then you should hire a qualified electrician, no?  Khamis would know how to breadboard some apparatus that gives random zaps to people passing by his government Ministry building.  Or maybe he sneakily used a hand-buzzer when shaking hands with Western diplomats, then laughing his head off when they screamed in pain.  All of which was deplorable, and surely deserving of sanctions by the European Union.

Khamis served the Syrian government in this capacity, as Minister of Electricity and Practical Jokes, from 2011 to 2016.  Then he was promoted to Prime Minister in a government shake-up.  Khamis belongs to the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party, same political party as President Assad.  (Both Sinister and Convenient!)  The Syrian Ba’ath Party was founded, back in the day (we’re talking 1947), by a coalition of Christian, Alawite and secular political thinkers, influenced by the ideals of Arab nationalism, socialism, and anti-imperialism.  All of which earned them the eternal hatred of the American Empire.  Which only seems to feel comfortable around Arabs when they are of the medieval “ululating rag-head” head-chopping sort.

Khamis Appointed in June

I mentioned yesterday that many countries in the world have governments involving both a President and a Prime Minister.  Within this genus , there are two main species: “President-heavy” systems, in which the President appoints the Prime Minister; and “Parliament-heavy” systems, in which, as the old Soviet joke goes, it is exactly the other way around.

Syrian Ba’ath Party rally

Syria, like Russia, is a “President-heavy” system.  The people elect the President through this crazy system called “balloting”, then the President appoints  his cabinet, including the Prime Minister, who is overall head of the government.  American pundits generally refer to this type of system as “authoritarian”, because he who is lucky enough to be elected President ends up with quite a lot of power and authority.  To Americans, this type of system is unacceptable.  They are used to living in a “representative democracy” where 538 anonymous drones elect the President.  Who then proceeds to do pretty much whatever he damn pleases while remaining within the parameters set by the unelected “Deep State” of Wall Street bankers who actually make all the important decisions.

But I digress.  Returning to Mr. Khamis:  It was back in June when President Assad dismissed his Cabinet and put Khamis in as Prime Minister, replacing the unfortunate Wael Nader al-Halqi, who had held the job since 2012.  Don’t cry for Wael though.  He may have lost his job, but at least he didn’t have his head chopped off.  He is still alive, although he did survive at least one attempt on his life, back in 2013, evidently by suicical car-bombing jihadists.  And, as a Ba’athist he will probably get a new government job at some point.

Anyhow, Khamis feels like he can do a better job than Wael when it comes to stimulating small businesses and artisan-craft type enterprises.  Which would be the foundation of any Middle Eastern economy at the micro-level.

The number of destroyed industrial and agricultural enterprises, just staggers the mind.  For example, in the district of Daraa, where the mutiny against the Ba’ath Party actually began in 2011, but has now lived in peace for over a year, seven licenses have been issued for new industrial enterprises, namely:  A radio-electronics firm; a cannery; a dairy enterprise; and several other enterprises working in plastics.  The capitalization of these enterprises requires around 600 million (Syrian) pounds.  Around 100 new jobs will be created.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s something.  This is just what is projected for the half-year, and in the previous half-year only 57 new jobs had been created in this district.

But What About Aleppo?

Next we turn our attention to Aleppo. one of the largest cities in Syria, and just recently liberated (literally, a few days ago) from Al Qaeda headchoppers and their American wranglers.

Shaykh Najjar: The biggest industrial development zone in the Middle East, is currently a ghost town.

The Syrian government is proceeding very aggressively to rebuild Aleppo from its foundations.  Step #1 is to rebuild and stimulate the urban development zone known as Shaykh Najjar, which is 10 kilometers northeast of Aleppo proper.  This area is currently a ghost town.  Businesses will not be able to return, until the Syrian government and police forces can insure their security.  Electricity and water need to be restored.  All of this is a lot of work, but will also create jobs.

Aleppo residents celebrate the expulsion of the terrorists from their neighborhoods.

Step #2, which must be done concurrently with Step #1 is to restore the delivery of fuel throughout the provinces.  In Syria, fuel is mostly oil-based.  Each province is headed by a governor, and it is his or her job to come up with a list of requirements.  Step #3 is get the automobiles and trucks moving again.  The governors have been asked to open a series of new car-repair and gas stations in all the towns and along the highways connecting the towns.  The governors are to work through the government procurement agency known as Makhrukat.  The good news is that public transportation has already been restored, with lightning speed, in those parts of Aleppo which were liberated from the terrorists.

As another gesture of solidarity, the Syrian government has exempted from taxes any businessmen and investors who suffered property damage at the hands of the terrorists.

The Arab market: Always a vibrant place.

Gafurov’s piece ends with a note about Syria’s need to stimulate exports and trade.  Just last month (November), a Syrian Private Joint Stock export company was created with a start-up capital of 1 billion (Syrian) pounds.  This company will engage in the packaging, marketing, and shipping of Syrian products to foreign markets.  Using this centralized service, Syrian enterprises, including small businesses and boutique projects, can market and sell their products abroad.  And Gafurov concludes with a warning to Russian business, not to let pass this opportunity to invest in the Syrian economy. An opportunity which he says they missed, in Iran!

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