(AFP, DAMASCUS) - Syria's finance ministry has finalized plans to start a state company exchanging foreign currency at black market rather than official rates, the government newspaper Tishrin said Monday.
The Syrian pound (S£) can be exchanged on the black market at a rate of S£47 to the dollar, cheaper than the S£ 51 it cost for a dollar in January.
There are several different exchange rates in Syria - including the official rate of S£46 to the dollar for transactions between the Syrian government and other countries, and a rate of S£23 to the dollar for commercial operations.
Syrians will be able to exchange money freely at branches of the company that will be set up around the country, Tishrin said. The company will have starting capital of $20 million.
The new exchange company's duties can be carried out at the 46 branches of the Syrian Commericial Bank, said the bank's head, Mohammad Misqal, according to Tishrin.
Syria keeps strict controls on the transfer of money abroad, prompting many Syrians to keep their money in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Cyprus.
Syria's banks were nationalized in 1963. Prime Minister Mohammed Mustapha Miro, appointed in March, has allowed foreign banks to return to Syria, but only in specific free-trade zones.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )