Bashar Al-Assad emerging from his father’s shadow
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has requested the resignation of his ministers, in an attempt to push forward economic reforms under the guidance of a new cabinet. Al-Assad’s call for the resignation of Syria’s government reflects his desire to replace the country’s old guard, which continues to oppose change.
The government’s resignation is part of major changes the president is considering, in an effort to inject fresh blood into the country and reform its economy. In almost a year and a half in power, the younger Assad has already approved new laws to establish private banks and introduced measures to establish a stock market and private universities.
Fresh policies are urgently needed in Syria, where unemployment exceeds 20 percent and 300,000 new graduates enter the labor force each year. Last year, the economy practically stagnated, as real GDP increased by a mere 0.6 percent, compared to earlier projections of 2.5 percent growth.
The country’s recently approved budget reflects the present economic reality. The new budget has boosted public expenditure by 10 percent to $1.7 billion. Most of the increased investment will go into basic infrastructure. Revenues will include proceeds from the issue of local and foreign loans, which will be used to cover the budget deficit. In addition, last month the government launched a one billion dollar program to combat unemployment, which aims to create 440,000 new jobs in the upcoming five years.
The President has instructed Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miro to form a new cabinet, with the existing ministers retaining their posts until it is up and running. Those portfolios most likely to change include the ministries of communications, tourism, economy, finance, labor and interior. Bashar Kabbara, the current governor of the Central Bank, is a leading candidate for the Ministry of Finance.
Despite attempts by the young leader to accelerate the pace of economic reform, associates of his late father remain influential and will continue to use their power to preserve existing political and commercial processes. — (menareport.com)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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