Businessmen support Assad regime
President Bashar Assad’s economic reforms helped earn the loyalty of businessmen. Without their support (as well as the army), his government would be in far greater danger of collapse from the Syrian protests.
Some Syrian cities have been persistently roiled by protests. Today, at least 30 protesters were reported killed across the country, the highest number in weeks, with the unrest focused in Homs and Hama. Syria’s two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have seen much smaller demonstrations because the cities’ business communities continue to favor the government, says Nabil Sukkar, a former World Bank economist who now heads an economic consulting firm in Damascus.
Drastic drops in tourism revenue and biting sanctions have taken a toll on the Syrian economy. While Syria’s gross domestic product grew by 3 percent last year, the IMF predicts a negative 2 percent this year. However, large and medium-sized businesses, which the West hopes to turn against the regime with its sanctions, remain largely supportive of the Assad regime.
Syria’s big business elite is closely intertwined with the ruling BAATH party through financial and family ties. Disloyalty to the government can mean not only the loss of lucrative government contracts, but political isolation and even jail.
Mr. Sukkar says big business leaders are pragmatic. “They expect the unrest to end sooner or later. The regime is well entrenched. The Army is certainly loyal to the government.” (Source: www.yallafinance.com)