Lagging economic reforms in Syria get jump-start with cabinet reshuffle
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mustafa Miro on Wednesday, September 10, 2003, reported SANA. The move had been expected since Assad's announcement in early August that a new government would soon be formed to accelerate political and economic reforms.
Parliament Speaker Naji Al Otari will replace Miro and lead a new government that is expected to push a reform agenda, announced by Assad when he assumed power after his father died in 2000.
In the light of the changed situation in the Middle East since the US invasion of neighboring Iraq, members of the Syrian parliament have voiced mounting demands to speed up reforms, especially of the administration and of the centralized socialist-leaning economy.
Since his accession to power Assad has focused his efforts mainly on the economic sphere. He replaced the ministers of finance and economy a few months after taking office and has promised to introduce accountability in government, streamline Syrian bureaucracy, eliminate corruption, and modernize the economy.
However many of those promised reforms have been slow in coming, with rumors of an out of sight struggle between leaders from the elder Assad's generation and a younger
Syria’s predominantly statist economy has been growing, on average, more slowly than its 2.4 percent annual population growth rate, causing a persistent decline in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). Recent legislation allows private banks to operate in Syria, although a private banking sector will take years and further government cooperation to develop. A long-run economic constraint is the pressure on water supplies caused by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and increased water pollution.
Despite the dismal picture, Assad’s gradual economic reform program has relaxed Syrian law on foreign currency transactions. Decree 33 for the year 2003 annulled two earlier decrees that mandated up to five-year prison terms for those dealing in foreign currency on the black market or taking Syrian pounds out of the country. Market experts assert that such efforts to liberalize the national economy will remain limited until the government loosens it hold of massive state-run assets. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)