The Syrian parliament is studying bills that would authorize the creation of a stock market and the formation of banks with mixed public and private capital, officials and the press said Monday.
"The banking bill is being studied by an ad hoc committee, and we expect that the discussions will end soon with a view to (the bill) being promulgated by the parliament," Deputy Economy Minister Fuad Sayed told AFP.
Under the bill, private Syrian capital, both resident and expatriate, as well as that of other Arabs, would be able to form banking corporations.
According to excerpts of the bill published in the press, the public sector would hold at least 25 percent of the shares in these companies, which would have to be of a minimum nominal value of 10 dollars. There was no indication of the maximum that would be held by the public sector.
The bill would require the corporations to have a minimum capital of one billion Syrian pounds (20 million dollars). Arab and Syrian investors would be allowed to contribute up to 50 percent of their stake in foreign exchange.
The creation of private banks, for the first time since financial institutions were nationalized in 1963, is "imminent," according to Al-Baath, the newspaper of the ruling Baath party.
Sayed described the measure as an "important step toward the modernization of the Syrian economy in a period of opening up."
Under the bill, these banks would be permitted to offer traditional banking services -- lending, savings and foreign exchange.
Last month, Lebanon's Societe Generale Libano-Europeenne de Banque, Fransabank and Banque Europeenne pour le Moyen-Orient -- with a minimum capital of $11 million in foreign exchange, were authorized for the first time to operate in Syria's free trade zone.
A bill to create a stock exchange is also the subject of widespread discussion and is being studied by parliament, the official press reported.
According to extracts published in the press, the bill would set a minimum capitalization of 10 million Syrian pounds ($200,000) for a company to be listed on the bourse.
The new market would be supervised by a committee headed by the economy ministry and including representatives of the companies, the central bank, the Commercial Bank of Syria, the union of chambers of commerce and of stockbrokers, the press said.
The government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mustapha Miro, appointed in March, has set itself the target of modernizing the Syrian economy by battling against bureaucratic top-heaviness and in stimulating the private sector.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )