Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Syria's new liberal economy

"Syria has been steadily liberalising its economy for the past two decades, with much of this effort focused on the banking sector. The time when six state-owned banks dominated the economy is long gone and private banks have become a central feature of the banking scene. Now the government is hoping to attract a major international bank to its shores and is proposing to raise foreign ownership limits and capital requirements to catapult the economy into a new era."

"Yet Mr Assad’s regime has not only endured but thrived, along with Syria’s economy. Its GDP, its foreign trade and the value of loans to its private sector have all nearly doubled in the past four years, as reforms have tapped suppressed entrepreneurial vigour. For decades Damascus looked as dour as Bucharest under communist rule. Now it pulses with life. New cars throng its streets. Fancy boutique hotels, bars and fully booked restaurants pack its rapidly gentrifying older quarters, while middle-class suburbs, replete with shopping malls and fast-food outlets, spread into the surrounding hills.

The revenue of Damascus’s swankiest hotel, the Four Seasons, is said to have doubled between 2006 and 2008. Bank Audi Syria, one of several Lebanese banks prospering there, made a profit within six months of launching in 2005. It now boasts $1.6 billion in deposits, and recently led Syria’s first-ever private syndication to finance a cement plant, a joint venture between France’s Lafarge and local businessmen costing $680m. In March Syria relaunched its stock exchange, moribund since the 1960s and still tiny. But with new rules allowing foreign ownership of equity, investors are showing keen interest."


I will be looking closely at the impacts of liberalization on local food systems and food security. Initial observations appear to show that the drastic decline in food security in Syria, especially that of the poorer classes, is linked with the latest liberalization trends.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Interesting, I am curious to know what conclusions you come to.