Mahmoud al-Zu’bi, who occupied the post of prime minister in Syria for 13 years, is to face trial on corruption charges, a move unprecedented since President Hafez al-Assad came to power 1970.
The ruling Baath party decided Wednesday to expel Zu’bi, 65, and to take him to court to answer for the "irregularities and abuses" committed under his administration, the official SANA news agency announced.
Zu’bi had been a member of the Baath's leadership since 1985.
Radio Monte Carlo said Thursaday the move comes within the frameork of an anti-corruption campaign led by president Assad’s Bashar, who is expected to be elected by the leading party to its regional command when it holds its first general conference in 15 years next month.
Zu’bi was prime minister uninterruptedly from 1987 until March 7 this year, when he resigned, and was replaced by Mohammed Mustafa Miro who formed a new government on March 13.
The agency said the Baath party leadership regarded the "irregularities and abuses committed by Mr. Zu’bi... as contrary to the principles and values of the party… in violation of article 77 of the internal system."
"This behaviour seriously harmed the image of the party and state as well as the national economy," SANA said, quoting the conclusions of a meeting of the party leadership chaired by President Hafez al-Assad.
The agency's report is an indication of the extent to which the gangrene of corruption has spread through the Syrian economy, said AFP.
At the beginning of May the official daily Tishrin said corrupt practices by certain officials were losing the Syrian treasury at least 50,000 dollars a day. The paper was referring to reported corruption cases dealt with by authorities.
On March 13 the same paper discussed the ills of the economy, bemoaning falling exports, lower investment, fewer bank loans, and a wage freeze.
"What is worrying is the calmness with which we are trying to deal with these problems, which affect every sector of the economy," the paper wrote in an editorial calling for active intervention to kick-start the economy.
A year ago, Assad called on the government to "modernize the state," saying it was "urgent" to develop state institutions.
Zu’bi's resignation followed sharp criticism of his government's inability to reform the outdated laws, some of them many decades old, which were hampering the development of the largely planned economy.
Assad's son Bashar said on March 7 that the "first task" of Miro's new government was to tackle corruption and modernize the administration.
Miro, a former governor of Aleppo, was described by analysts as a hands-on technocrat with a reputation for personal integrity and for fighting corruption.
On April 25, six weeks after it was formed, the new goverment announced two important liberalization measures to attract investors.
A presidential decree authorized private individuals for the first time to hold foreign currency, which was previously a crime liable for between three and 10 years imprisonment.
Last month, Syria ratified a financial aid agreement with the EU, a move seen to introduce major changes in Syrian economic life.
The presidential decree was followed by a government announcement that it planned to encourage private investment in Syria among other things by giving tax breaks and making it easier for foreigners to repatriate their capital and profits – (Several Sources)
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