Syrian MPs Criticize Private Banking Law

Published September 20th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

A group of Syrian MPs have criticized as “unconstitutional” the president’s private banking decree, claiming that it undermines the country’s long standing socialist economy, reported the Daily Star newspaper.  

“Parliament should respect the legacy of the late (President) Hafez Assad who showed that socialism, based on equality is the only path to salvation,” Ibrahim Houri, an independent MP from Aleppo, told Parliament.  

Houri demanded that the private banking decree, passed in December last year to pave the way for the introduction of private and foreign banks in Syria, be revoked.  

Syria’s financial sector was nationalized by the Baath Party when it came to power in 1963.  

Since Assad’s death last June, his son and successor Bashar Assad has begun taking steps to open up the Syrian economy.  

But the MPs argued that private banks would “plunge the country into class divisions and recreate an unequal distribution of wealth.” Houri also claimed that the decree violated Article 13 of the 1973 constitution which prohibits monopolies.  

“Syria today needs to reform its public banks rather than privatize them,” said Houri. Once the banking sector was reformed, he suggested, the private sector might be allowed to invest with the state in jointly-owned banks but “no private banks could be tolerated.”  

With opposition MPs Mamoun Humsi and Riad Seif languishing in jail after a government crackdown earlier this month, there was no significant opposition to Houri’s hard-line remarks, said the paper.  

However, Houri’s proposals were overruled by Parliament, which had already ratified the president’s decree.  

Houri’s complaints suggest that although Bashar and Prime Minister Mustafa Miro support the privatization decree, they face strong opposition from the old guard.  

When the decree was first raised in Parliament last November, it was strongly condemned by Baathist hard-liners.  

In December, it again faced serious opposition from senior members of the party’s regional command, but the president’s approval was enough to pass it. The Communist Party weeklies Al-Noor and Sawt al-Shaab, along with the state-run daily Al-Baath, have published a spate of editorials calling for the decree to be revoked, said the paper – 


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