During the meeting of the ruling Baath Party’s Regional Command headed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, decrees were approved on the establishment of private banks, a stock market, and the introduction of a new law to ensure banking secrecy.
These decrees are expected to be officially approved by the Syrian parliament before the end of the year. The meeting also approved plans to change foreign currency rules towards allowing the market to set the rate for the Syrian pound against hard currencies. In addition, the party approved a plan to improve the role of the Central Bank in directing financial and monetary policy.
Following this reform plan, Syria will allow foreign banks to enter in two ways, either as a private bank restricted to private Syrian and foreign investors, or as a joint entity owned by private investors and the Syrian government with the latter owning not more than 25 percent. The draft law will allow foreign investors to own up to 49 percent of a commercial bank, with individual investors owning not more than 5 percent of the minimum $32 million required capital.
Some Lebanese banks have already received permits to operate in the Syrian free zones in an attempt to penetrate the banking sector, but their activities will be restricted to business with companies located in the free zones. ¯ ( Banque du Liban et d'Outre-Mer Sal )
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )