Syria Saturday, December 1, gave the green light to the establishment of private banks "in the form of private or mixed shareholding companies", and of a stock exchange, the official SANA news agency reported.
The measure was approved at a meeting of the ruling Baath party, chaired by President Bashar al-Assad after several months of work on the project aimed at reforming the banking sector, which was fully nationalized in 1963.
The party's regional command also instructed the country's banks to look into the issue of foreign currencies being traded at their real values, it added.
Syrian rates vary from 11 to 46 Syrian pounds to the dollar, depending on the nature of the transaction. The effective street rate of the dollar is around 50 pounds.
However, Mohammad Ayman Izzat Midani, a leading Syrian economist, warned in an article published on Saturday by the daily newspaper Tishrin, that hasty liberalization will not benefit the Syrian economy.
According to Mohammad Midani, the Syrian economy would suffer greatly if Syria and the European Union (EU) were to sign a trade agreement before the implementation of economic reforms.
Midani warned Syrian authorities against the dangers of exposing the Syrian market to cheaper and better quality European products.
A new round of Syrian-European negotiations are to take place in Brussels November 18 and 19. In May 1998, both parties began talks aimed at creating a free-trade zone by 2010.
In neighbouring Lebanon, where Syria wields huge influence, Prime minister Rafiq Hariri decided Friday to slash tax on import duties in a move welcomed by EU officials, as he works towards opening his country's economy to European products.
"These measures are an important step towards creating an Arab common market", Hariri told the London-published Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat on Thursday. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)