Future Plans For a Capitalist Syria

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A banker carries a load of money as he walks past an image of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a bank in the capital in Damascus on 28 February 2012. (Photo: AFP - Anwar Amro)

By: Elie Hanna

Published Saturday, May 25, 2013

When speaking of a “Syrian Taif” – a reference to the Lebanese Taif Agreement that ended the country’s civil war – it does not merely mean confessional consensus to end the war and maintain a unified country.

“Lebanonization” would also impact Syria's protected economic system, which, when compared to its Arab surroundings is not as open to Western investment.

On the tune of Geneva 2 and the prospective political solution, the whole of the “international community” is ready to announce its project for the reconstruction if Syria. Its committees are drawing up economic and “development” plans, under the banner of a "national agenda for the future of Syria."

However, this agenda found receptive parties in Damascus. A few days ago, former deputy prime minister Abdullah Dardari, along with foreign minister Faisal Meqdad, opened the doors for questioning the economic "mentality" of the Syrian government.

Now, as envoy of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Dardari came to Damascus "to present current options to support the Syrian government in its efforts to mobilize resources after the end of the crisis."

Dardari's proposal is based on the assumption that the war will end in 2015, at the latest, and that Syria will remain unified with a central government, regardless of who will be president of the country.

Today, the Syrian government made decisions that seem detached from the reality of the country, the suffering of its people, and the flames on the ground. However, they seem to follow the tune of Dardari and his international cohorts.

On Wednesday, the Syrian government decided to raise the price of cooking gas cylinders to 1,000 Syrian pounds (SP), or $10, with an increase of SP600 ($6) from the price set last year, almost 150 percent. There are rumors and reports on a prospective price increase on heating oil and petrol.

But why the rush to lift subsidies? And who are these concessions being made for? For the answers, look no further than ESCWA's agenda.

Sources following the economic situation in Damascus tell Al-Akhbar that the current government needs to pave the way for the government in the following phase of stability. It needs to do whatever it can to remove subsidies on basic goods, in preparation for the upcoming project.

In parallel with Geneva 2, the informed sources mention US pressures on Moscow to demand concessions from its Arab ally and open its markets to investment from the Gulf and the West.

The meeting with Dardari was intended to send a political message to the outside, saying that Damascus is open in this regard. Syria in "now looking into the future and the start of the national dialogue. It is determined to carry out rebuilding and reconstruction in parallel with return of peace and security," Meqdad stated after the meeting.

Dardari's image is also being polished. His "ominous" name, to many Syrians, is back in circulation. He is a man of peace and rebuilding, the title of his visit seems to be saying.

However, he had been completely silent in the two years of the Syrian inferno. Some said he defected. In the first weeks of the popular mobilization, his children wrote things on the Syrian revolution's web pages.

But Dardari is a businessman. He does not like wars. He merely feeds on the crises that precede them and the collapse that follows.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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