Friday, May 12, 2006

Comparing the two paths of Syria’s Bashar and Pakistan’s Musharaff. Has Bashar erred? By EHASNI2

Comparing the two paths of Syria's Bashar and Pakistan's Musharraf. Has Bashar erred?

By EHSANI2
12 May 2006,

In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, a former commando, assumed power in Pakistan. Seven months later, Bashar Assad, an aspiring ophthalmologist, came to power one week after the death of his father. When Pakistan and the world awoke to the news of a new military coup in October 1999, the consensus opinion was: “Another coup, another general”. In contrast, when Syria and the world glimpsed their new leader, many hoped that his training in London and his facility with English and his British-born wife would make him a different kind of dictator than his iconic and Soviet era father. Syria could now look forward to a new breed of leadership free of ideological demagoguery and endemic corruption.

How did the two leaders and their countries do since then? Let us now recap:

Pakistan’s Musharraf:

When the general assumed power, Pakistan was being described as a failing state sinking in a debt quagmire and kept afloat by the IMF and World Bank as several times during the decades the country was near default and bankruptcy. On the political front, there were economic sanctions following the 1998 nuclear tests. The coup, of course, brought its new political sanctions. The country was in effect a political and economic pariah.

As soon as he took power, Musharraf’s first move was to ask his senior advisors to identify for him the most qualified incorruptible Pakistani national whom he could task with turning the economy around. Once that person was identified, the General personally called him the next morning. Shaukat Aziz was a hugely successful senior executive at Citibank in New York. General Musharraf pleaded with Mr. Aziz to leave his immensely powerful and lucrative job, move to Pakistan and help put the country’s economic house in order. Mr. Aziz was promised a free hand in designing his own policies with the full support of the new leader.

The economic plan that Mr. Aziz designed had to address the following problems:

Increase foreign reserves from the equivalent of only two weeks of imports at the end of 1999.

Reorganize the country’s debt by lowering the 11% rates paid on mostly short term loans.

Cut the budget deficit from 8% to 4% of GDP.

Lower inflation from double digits.

Undertake a massive structural reform

Sell public sector enterprises and embark on a fast-track approach to privatizing the state’s biggest companies.

As the economic plan went into its implementation stage, Mr. Bin Laden and his Jihadists struck on that infamous September 11th. Mr. Musharraf of course had his own Islamist elements in his midst. His military and secret service were taken over by Islamists during the dictatorship of Zia ul Haq. But Musharraf recognized the world-changing significance of 9/11, withdrew recognition from the Taliban, and began helping the CIA. As Pakistan found itself on the frontline and under the microscope of the world, the canny general made full use of the opportunity presented to him and his country. He knew that he could now get all the aid that his county needed from the U.S. and the west if he chose to fight alongside them. Sure enough, the enormous handouts poured in. The economy was already on an upswing and the reform process was already in full force but the new American sure helped. A huge portion of the country’s debt was forgiven. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. The country’s stock market is up 806% since 2002 alone, property markets in key cities are on a tear as interest rates were lowered and housing finance boomed. Last year alone, overseas Pakistanis sent close to $ 4 billion home. Foreign capital has also been attracted due to the massive privatization effort. Since 2003, the country raised $5 billion through the auction of its state enterprises. This year, it has plans to raise another $ 3 Billion by selling off its oil, gas and steel assets.

In sum, President Musharraf knew from day one that his success hinged on tackling his country’s economy. In order to do so, he relied on incorruptible technocrats and gave them free reign to plan and execute their strategies. In the wake of 09/11, he had the foresight to take full advantage of the opportunity presented to him and his country. Here was an opportunity to appear like he was helping America and a chance to reap huge financial benefits as a result. He masterfully and opportunistically made full use of it. Some may argue that his move towards the west was merely cosmetic. How could Musharraf not have known about his country’s nuclear smuggling ring headed by A.Q. Khan they ask? How did Musharraf pardon the man and allow him to live peacefully in the country after the devastating news became public? Nonetheless, this President convinced America that he had made the decision to fight the Islamic elements within his society and side with the U.S. The result was that financial aid started to pour in. The country’s foreign reserves went from the lowest to the highest in its history. In the meantime, the country has become one of the world’s most aggressive sellers of state companies. It has overhauled its tax system. The country’s strategy has been to maintain rapid growth, in part to encourage a prosperous middle class, which might pre-empt the appeal of the radical Islamist movement and put the country on a more politically moderate path.

But significant challenges remain. Per Capita GDP is still only close to $600. Nearly 30% of the population still lives below the poverty line. More state funds are needed for education and infrastructure. The country is still ruled by the same army general who has resisted calls for free elections. But, given the hand that he was dealt, this astute and opportunistic general has arguably done an outstanding job steering his troubled country.

Syria’s Bashar:

Though Bashar inherited a socialist-based economy riddled with corruption, the expectations surrounding his ascension to the Presidency run high. Here was a western-educated young President who was an ophthalmologist in training and a surfer of the Internet in his spare time. His marriage to his British-born wife with her Chanel look, fancy education and banking experience bolstered hopes and pride even further. Add promises of reform to the mix, and it was easy to see why 20 million Syrians had nothing but hope for a better future that would involve more freedoms and higher standards of living. Western capitals were at least as hopeful. Bashar and his elegant wife had now become on the “A “ list of invitees to meet the world’s Kings, Queens and Heads of State.

As the clock ticked, Bashar’s promises of reforms were slow in coming. The conventional thinking then, as it still is now, was that the young President “wants to reform but his father’s old guard cronies were blocking him”. This has helped the leadership shift the blame of any delays in the implementation of reforms to this phantom group of old guard. Note how Bashar did nothing to find Syria’s equivalent of Shaukat Aziz. Those technocrats that were identified were not empowered to exert any personal influence of their own. Key decisions were exclusively entrusted to the regional command of the Baath party and the Presidential Palace. To this day, the economic polices of his administration have been shameful. Without a clear vision to guide him, he has stumbled at every turn when it comes to turning his economy around. Economic growth continues to languish. Youth Unemployment continues to soar. The state continues to dominate the economy at the expense of the private sector. Insane economic subsidies continue to bleed the state treasury. The Price of heating oil (Mazot) is at Syp 7 when the neighboring countries sell it for 29 and 70 in Lebanon and Turkey respectively. As a result, corruption is rampant. Every time, talk surfaced that these subsidies were going to be lifted, there was uproar from an already struggling populace.

Just as Sep 11th presented President Musharraf with an opportunity to forge closer ties with the U.S., Bashar’s first instincts were similar. In the months that followed, the CIA was granted an office in one of Aleppo’ security headquarters. Information about Al-Qaeda operatives was constantly passed along in the ensuing months. As this healthy cooperation continued, Bashar was busy making overtures to Saddam’s regime in the months leading to his collapse from power. One has to assume that Bashar and his enterprising clique saw a huge opportunity to make outrageous sums of money from the dictator next door. With the U.N. oil for food corruption in high gear, the opportunities were too attractive to pass up. Saddam also needed to hide his cash. His new brotherly neighbors were more than happy to oblige.

As Saddam’s regime suffered its military collapse, Bashar was about to make his biggest geopolitical blunder yet. What I will argue below is going to be very controversial and is likely to elicit a lot of angry responses.

Bashar was understandably threatened by the American army’s massive military success next door. The conventional thinking at the time was Syria’s Baath was next on the menu. As soon as the American army was done in Iraq, they were surely heading west to Damascus to topple the Syrian regime. Bashar and his advisors went to work. Their model was presumably the American Marine’s experience in Lebanon in 1983. Were the American army to suffer enough casualties in Iraq, they may cut and run just like Reagan’s America did. Or so the thinking went.

This was a major strategic blunder by the young President.

If Bashar did not want to be a U.S. ally, he at least should have been a non-aggressor. By foolishly providing moral and material support to the insurgency in Iraq and by harboring high-ranking Iraqi officials, he has made himself a marked man at the White House. It was widely reported that Secretary of State Colin Powel repeatedly tried to change the young leaders’ tactics. All reported promises were not kept.

In this writer’s opinion, Bashar should have imitated Musharraf’s canny use of the opportunity presented to him. His country had already lost its Soviet patronage. His economy is saddled with inefficiencies and corruption. His natural resources are running out fast. His population is increasing at double the rate of the country’s economic growth rate. His people’s standards of living are stagnant if not falling. His Baath party is on the wrong side of history. Most importantly, his late father and regime have credible credentials in fighting Islamic Fundamentalists.

Here was a historic chance to edge Syria towards the west and reform. Here was the chance to break away from the past and the so-called Stalinist era old guard. Here was the chance to ask for massive amounts of financial aid and turn around his economy. Here was the chance to sign a peace treaty with Israel in return for the Golan Heights. Regrettably, Bashar chose not to grab the opportunity. Rather than do all or some of the above, he finds himself and his regime implicated in the murder of his neighbor’s Prime Minister. His army was humiliatingly ordered to leave Lebanon. His country faces a list of economic and political sanctions. His nation has become a regional and national pariah.

Gone are the days of visiting the western capitals with his elegant wife. Gone are the days when foreign leaders and Kings visited.

Thanks to Bashar’s strategic blunders, the Syria of today can only count “Bearded Men” as its friends.

Both Bashar and Musharraf were faced with the same fork on the road during their Presidency. Musharraf had the foresight and courage to at least seem to stand up to the Islamists within his society and make a break with the past. He was able to convince America that he was their new friend. His genuine efforts to fix his economy and reform it from day one has had an enormous benefit for his people. Bashar, of course, took the other road at the fork. Presumably, he did not feel that he had the credibility that his father may have had to make such a geopolitical decision and edge his country to the west. Regrettably, niether did he have a vision or a plan to turn his languishing economy around.

Even though both their countries are still ruled by dictators, it is the opinion of this writer that Bashar and the Syrian people lost this contest.

63 Comments:

At 5/12/2006 08:18:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

"His economy is saddled with inefficiencies and corruption." true, yet capitalism makes money via inefficiencies and corruption. It simply repackeges inefficiencies and corruption and charges for it and then we will call it efficiency! How pathetic that one can fall for this marketing.

Marketing is the art of deception.

 
At 5/12/2006 09:01:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

EHSANI2 said: "His Baath party is on the wrong side of history."

What the heck does that mean? History doesn't have sides. This statement is simply a method to control people's thought processes.

Ehsani2, please refrain from such rubish. And please be transperent with your goals. From what I gather your goal is based upon reaping as much capital as possible at the expense of anyone who gets in your way. This is truely the Republican way, the american way and certainly is at odds with civility and the positive progression of civilization.

 
At 5/12/2006 09:12:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

Ehsani2's writings are based upon the assumption that the Bushites and the neocons are rational, which they are not.

It would not have mattered what syria stood for, the nuts in the White House and Tel Aviv would have found another reason to corner Syria.

Ehsani2, please stop being naive. The only time Syria would stop being cornered is when its modus oporandi completely moved to only "free" markets and the complete discarding of nationalism, just like the whorish Gulf states.

 
At 5/12/2006 09:15:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Ehsani2 , you forgot the diffrences ,Musharaf came with the support of the army Bashar needed to gain their support,Musharaf came to a failed state with massive debt while Syria has no forign debt ,everybody supported the US in invading Afganestan as justified self deffence while invading Iraq was rejected by the whole wourld and Bashar can not go against the majority of his people who are gainst that invasion and to stay in power as he would have been toppled ,he needed to ride the anger ,Ehsani you forgot that Syria saved many american lives during the cooperation,and Syria got nothing not even public gratitute ,Syria could have helped the US alot and could have toppeled Sadam without invasion or losing american lives , look at the leaders in Iraq now they were in Syria for years but unfortionatly the US goverment desided to do Israel,s work and destroy Iraq and devid it into ethnic states ,most Syrians know that the US plans the same for Syria and do not want it.if the US gov wants Syria as a freind they should wnt to be freinds of Syria.and force Israel out of the Golan hights and setle the Palestenian problem ,that will make everybody likes and help us.

 
At 5/12/2006 11:35:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

This is a really interesting comparison. Thoughful, but I think it fails to recognize or acknowledge some serious differences and assumptions.
First, you really glorify the situation in Pakistan, as if the measure of the country's 'success' and Musharraf's is all about the GDPand economic growth according to the usual measures. But truthfully, i don't trust that at all. At a recent World Affairs Council lecture I heard a pakistani analyst talking about how...yes...if you ask the elites of the population (as in other countries) what they think of the reforms and alliance with the west..etc...you will get the impression that this is a fabulous turn around and foreign policy alliance with the USA. However, as is often the case, if one asked the majority of the population, there would be quite a different perception. For one reason, this supposed middle class does not exist presently. Most of the populace is not benefitting from all these economic gains. And this is no different from the US. Compared to the measured amount of wealth and growth in the US, the average citizen feels really stressed and screwed over financially.

But another this about the Pakistani moves: even if it was a huge gain, it's this all built on whoring for america? And in the end...where are the ethics in that. The population at large..know what an unholy alliance that will be down the road. Frankly, the story isn't over,....and maybe...the people think that eventually the USA will be on the "wrong side of history."

In terms of Syria,,,and Bashar's errors: it is unclear to me...how it is that you imply that Bashar had so many choices and offers of assistance that he turned down. I don't recall any overtures at all. And if we believe Seymour Hersh's journalism on the issue of what went down after the intial cooperation after Sept 11th......it was the US defense department and the Administration (not the CIA) who closed the door on any further cooperation and diplomacy with Assad.
And here follows another significant difference I see. Pakistan was not subjected to the same type of demands that i think would have immediately been forced upon Bashar Assad if he had made the deal...and accepted the financial aid trade.
You even implied in your piece that the situation with Musharraff is possibly better described as 'cosmetic' ...and a matter of appearance. And truly, WHY has the US govt not asbsolutely DEMANDED that the Pakistani forces/gov't ..(somebody) hand over Osama Bin Laden NOW NOW NOW!... frankly, the US can't get away with that...because Musharaff can't get away with that...and not be killed. Everybody knows it....but instead the US officials all act like ...oh 'the Pakistanis are doing there best!.....those mountains are just really treacherous and insurmountable'! sure........

Ok, so if you compare this to the situation in Syria with our other leader......I don't think Rumsfeld, Rice and company would have extended Bashar...the same free pass. No way. Pakistan is not sitting next to Israel. If they had extended a bunch of financial aid...etc...(which i dont' think anybody did)....short on the heals of that would have been the unqualified demand to exile all the Palestinian leaders and big shots out of Damascus, as well as, cut off all aid and arms to Hezballah, and essentially hang the Palestinians out to dry ....publically, no less.
But of course, this is a total impossibility for a syrian leader. Total political suicide within Syria. Musharraf supposed (i think it is actually just a superficial stand) fighting of the islamic elements is just not equivalent to abandoning the Palestinian cause and playing nice with Israel. Maybe you would say, that this leader should have put himself on the chopping block...for the economic betterment of his country... but again, it is not obvious to me that selling one'self to west is really going to be the road to a glorious future for Syria or Pakistan.
I don't think this is a fair comparison...because of these key factors that are not minor.

 
At 5/12/2006 11:43:00 PM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

Eshani2 has strange economical theories. 200 years of ”free trade and capitalism” American style has not made Latin American countries rich, on the contrary. A small upper class has got rich and the poor majority has stayed poor and under educated. The republican slogan that unregulated trade and free markets make an economy grow is absolute fiction. It has not happened anywhere. If the American oversimplified theory of low state regulation and free trade would be true the wealthiest country would be Somalia, which has no government or taxes and the trade is free. Building an industrialized country is much more complex than "free trade".

Pakistan’s better economical performance during the last couple years has been helped with huge economical growth in neighbour countries. US financial help and co-operating after 911 has had no actual meaning in that growth. It is actually rather funny to claim it to be so. Well the US neocons and their Arab loyalists must invent “proves” from the benefits of loyalty to USA, even when those “proves” have nothing to do with the reality.

Syria co-operated with USA considerably after 911. Even USA has had to admit it. USA claims of Syria helping the Iraqi resistance have mostly been unproven and should be seen as defensive propaganda in “explaining” the worsening situation in Iraq. USA was / is responsible of controlling Iraq’s borders. How can Syria seal 100 per cently seal its borders, when even USA can't do it. We did not read much about US concerns of Jordan’s and Saudi Arabia’s border “problems”, even it is obvious that most of the foreign fighters and much of weapons came through those countries.

It is in many ways obvious that no Baath party regime in Syria is ever good enough for USA / Israel, neither a religious regime. Actually it would be nice to know what kind of a regime USA / Israel would like / tolerate to emerge in Syria and would that regime be what Syrians want. Would that new regime get back the water resources of Mount Hebron and Golan heights from Israel? I doubt that.

The US pressure and reasoning against Syria for Lebanon’s “occupation” has actually been very amusing. Considering that in the neighbour country Israel has been able for decades have a much more brutal and finically harming direct occupation, than the Syrian presence in Lebanon ever was. If USA had shown the same commitment with Palestine case as with Lebanon case and returned the 1967 borders, the security and political situation would be much better than now. But it has not been willing to do that.

Former General Clarke told about USA’s plan about taking control of Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq. The plan was made just weeks after 911. And we are seeing that plan profiled and the plan is not for democracy or economical prosperity – not at least of the citizens of those countries.

 
At 5/13/2006 12:57:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Ehsani2

I feel bad criticizing your comparison after all the others did the same already.

But at least Zenobia started with the polite "interesting" "thoughtful".... and I agree.

But I will repeat what I said earlier at Ammar's blog: the situation is totally made out of uncertainty.... NOISE. Making any predictions or final judgements at this point is not wise.

As Zenobia said:

Frankly, the story isn't over ...

You want a similar situation from recent history?

1982: Hafez Assad was cornered, beaten. He just came out of three years of MB campaign which was ended brutally in Hama, Israel "successfully" invaded Lebanon destroying tens of Syrian aircrafts in the process, The Syrian economy was in terrible shape, the whole Arab world was with the MB against the Syrian regime, the United States under president Reagan did not know much about Syria and did not want to do any business with Syria, the president survived an assasination attempt, then a heart attack, then an attempt from his own brother to take power from him ... how bad does it get?

Everyone was busy analyzing all the mistakes of the Syrian regime ... but somehow a year later ... everything changed

 
At 5/13/2006 05:34:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Ugarit,

Fantastic comments!!! you dissected his article so well and did it in a politer way than I would have.

And that comment about the whorish Gulf States was awesome. You go girl ;)

 
At 5/13/2006 08:39:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

I said to Ehsani2: "From what I gather your goal is based upon reaping as much capital as possible at the expense of anyone who gets in your way."

I have no evidence of this, so I retract it.

 
At 5/13/2006 10:38:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...

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At 5/13/2006 10:39:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...

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At 5/13/2006 10:41:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...

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At 5/13/2006 10:42:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...

Alex,syria during the 70's and 80's was the most economicaly helped country in the third world ,from the 70's to the end of 80's ,syria received annualy 1 billion US $ from gulf countries(with western approval) and one billion 25-30 years ago was very important,the syrian boeings were a gift from the gulf...

 
At 5/13/2006 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Zamzami, it is true that Syria received a lot of economic aid (including the Boeings) but it was on and off, alwyas few good years followed by some very dry years ... the Boeings for example were an enthusiastic gift to partialy reward Syria for its performance after the 1973 war ... I can tell you that Syria wanted at the time to get the smaller 727 or 737 but they insisted on buying Syria the presigeous "jumbo" ... so a compromise was to buy the SP (smallest version) of the 747 lineup.

Syria's interference in Lebanon "on the side of the Christians" was not well received by some Arab states, followed by its rejection of the Camp David accords which was not well received by the Americans and the west, then its role in ending the Israel-Lebanon "peace accord" ...

later in the 80s (Reagan administration years) for example, the government was in a terrible shape ... Syria was receiving a small fraction of the international loans that Jordan was receiving at the time.

 
At 5/13/2006 12:07:00 PM, Blogger zamzami said...

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At 5/13/2006 12:09:00 PM, Blogger zamzami said...

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At 5/13/2006 12:17:00 PM, Blogger zamzami said...

Alex,asad was lucky,in the 80's syria has become a relative important oil and coton exporter added to important economic aids at the same time living standars of the syrian people has dramatically declined,it's not fair to use the 80's events as excuse,when the syrian children were deprived of fruits the syrian army and moukhabarat officers were not bothered to build palaces and drive 600 SEL mercedes.
In my opinion bashar policy is even worse,now the most important source of currency in our modern world,like mobile phone companies,sea ports and free zones are exclusively a asad-maklhouf family affair.

 
At 5/13/2006 12:19:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

I will respond to some of the above comments later on.

In the meantime, would anyone come forward and answer the following question/s:

What exactly has Bashar done over the past 6 years on the economic front?

Does he have a vision or a plan, and if so what is it?

How much time do we need to pass a judgment on his record? If six years is not enough, then how long is?

 
At 5/13/2006 01:25:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Ehsani2

I agree with you that much more should have been done on the reform/economic front. You are right.

How much more time? ... I don't know. But it sure helps if

1) President Assad starts accepting to take more risk internally.

2) THEY (the west) stop teaching "the Syrian regime" lessons. The more they boycott "the syrian regime", the more they are punishing the Syrian people, because whatever they do will not force the regime out ...

"How much more time they will need to realize that? ... they have been doing it on and off since Syria opposed the Camp david accords in 1977"

Sadat is a better comparison than Pakistan ... he followed the ultra charismatic and strong Abdul Nasser, he governed for 7 years until he made his "deal" with the west and Israel ... and everything magically started to open up economically.

 
At 5/13/2006 07:06:00 PM, Blogger George Ajjan said...

Ehsani, thanks for addressing the economic issues.

If Bashar read your piece and had a change of heart, and made you his Shaukat Aziz, what specific reforms would you make and in what time frame would you expect to see changes in ultimate results like GDP per capita, average monthly wage, etc.

I think history has proven time and time again that it´s never too late to embrace free markets and reap the resultant rewards. But I´d like to hear Ehsani´s projections.

 
At 5/13/2006 08:22:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Embrace free markets and reap the resultant rewards?

Are you trying to give ulcer to my friends Ugarit and Simohurtta?

 
At 5/13/2006 09:15:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

I see the Syrian gov changing it,s mind about lifting the subsidies on heating oil and other products because of worry about unrest ,lifting the support is essential to prevent losing revenew and subsidising the Jordanian and Lebanese economies what Syria can do is provide coupons and food stamps to low income Syrians as rich Syrians should pay what they pay when they are outside the country ,gov employees should be given higher salaries supported by the money that the goverment saved by lifting the subsidies that will give gov empolyees mere stake in the country which will make them harder.

 
At 5/13/2006 09:16:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

ehsani2:

I already have ulcers ;-)

I guess "free" markets are a necessary evil.

 
At 5/13/2006 09:22:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

Syrian hopes of a tourism boom

 
At 5/13/2006 09:32:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

Let me tell everyone what has given me ulcers. The following two false statements are bound to give anyone ulcers.

1. that bush wants democracy in the arab world.
2. that Syria is on the wrong side of history.

Number 1 is easy to prove and if anyone still says he is then that person is blind to the facts. Number 2 is clearly a statment based upon the "bully perspective". The neocons have this notion that reality and history are created by them. It sounds like the thought process of a mentally ill person.

All this being said Syria is in need of a huge dose of reform.

Let's tackle what we mean by reform. Anyone?

 
At 5/13/2006 09:50:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

The Baath (not Syria the country)is on the wrong side of history.

Indeed. I coined this term and I fully believe in it.

Why are bringing up this fancy neocon word here? Please feel free to attack me personally all you want by calling me mentally ill or whatever else.

Reform according to the Oxford dictionary is defined as follows:

"The amendment, or altering for the better, of some faulty state of things, esp. of a corrupt or oppresive political institution or practice; the removal of some abuse or wrong."

Based on this defintion, God only knows how much reform our country needs!

 
At 5/14/2006 04:31:00 AM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

If Eshani2 could give some examples where simply free trade decision has lifted underdeveloped economies to huge growth, it would be “nice”. Repeating the mantra “free trade” time after time without understanding what it actually means for the development of an underdeveloped country is not very intellectual. The fore most speaker of free trade (USA) uses several methods to protect their own industries. There are substitutes to the producers (cotton and other agricultural products), custom regulations and barriers (for example steel and plywood), there is regulations of standardization, which makes others more difficult to export their products etc. Free trade what is it actually?

Fully free trade suits only to countries which have already achieved a certain level in industrialization and services. Free trade also needs that there exists an enough vital competition inside the country. If a country has one steel producer how much competition is there? In a free trade situation it is extreme unlikely that outside companies build new steel plants in the country, if the markets are small. Most likely the steel is imported. The in flooding cheap steel would most probably kill the only existing steel plant, if the import is not regulated with custom barriers (as USA does even it has many steel plants).

Importing needs on a longer run on the state level that there is an equal amount of export.

If we consider Syria would open fully all its markets and property rights, as a capital poor country it would be simply invaded by major international companies and foreign investors. They would simply buy the existing infrastructure. Would Syrians like that?

All industrialized countries have opened their markets in small pieces, WHEN THE MARKET SEGMENT IS READY FOR OPENING. It is easy for USA and EU to demand smaller players to open their markets, because they have already achieved the level that they can cope with “free trade”. The problem is that the others have not achieved the needed level.

What kind of government would lift Syrian economy in six years and with what means? USA aid would not come without a huge political price = loosing Golan Heights. Also free trade is hardly a solution. USA has now made its social-economical tests in Iraq for three years. Free trade you know Eshani2. Actually the present Syrian government has achieved much more than USA in Iraq.

Some figures from CIA’s world fact book to compare differences between countries

Syria GDP growth rate 4.5% 3,400 USD per capita
Jordan GDP growth rate 5.9% 4,900 USD
Lebanon GDP growth rate 0.5 % 5,300 USD
Turkey GDP growth rate 5.1% 7,900 USD
Iraq GDP growth rate -3,0 3,400 USD
Egypt GDP growth rate 4,7 4,400 USD

Syria is still mainly an agricultural country with a weak industrial and financial infrastructure, in a war like state with its powerful neighbour and under US sanctions. Also the other countries in the area have problems with their economies, even if they are USA’s friends and have more or less “free trade”. That is a fact.

Actually in Syrian economy seems to be happening quite much. Gas lines with Egypt, huge refinery investments from Russia etc. New laws on many areas.

Saying that a regime is on wrong side of history is astonishing. Why does USA not like Baath ideology even it is one of the few secular movements (which USA wants) in Arab politics. USA tolerates absolute monarchies and even harsh dictators, but not the "half democracy" of Iran and Syria. Astonishing, if it is simply for democracy.

The strategic needs of a country stay the same even the regime changes. It is naïve to think that a non-religious regime in Iran would think otherwise of the defence needs than the present regime. One Israeli General said that it is not “proper” that Iranians have nuclear weapons, but Iranians would be crazy if they would not move forwards to that option. Israel has nuclear weapons not because it is a “democratic country”. It has because it believes it needs them for its security. Syria like Iran has the same strategic need and that need is not regime related. Different regimes do things in different ways, but the problems to be solved and the strategic playground stay the same. What kind of regime in Syria could make a peace with Israel and with what price? Could it voluntary stay weaker than its aggressive neighbour? Could Syria build nuclear power plants, which it needs for its industrial development?

 
At 5/14/2006 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

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At 5/14/2006 10:41:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

JAM

I am dissapointed that you did not read the article.

For the record, Dr. Landis has not even read the article or gave me authority to publish it. I told weeks ago that I am thinking of writing an article on the broad subject of Bashar versus Mushraaf. His reply was :

"Go for it. It sounds interesting".

Since I finished the article I went ahead and posted without his personal approval or authorization. I just wanted to set the record straight.

 
At 5/14/2006 10:51:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

SimoHurtta :

Thank you for bringing facts about "free" trade to the table. However, the question to ask would the average Syrian's life improve under the opening of the market? Can it get worse than now? The impression I get from Ehsani2 is that he believes that they would be better off than now.

 
At 5/14/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

Ehsani2 said:

"The Baath (not Syria the country)is on the wrong side of history. Indeed. I coined this term and I fully believe in it. Why are bringing up this fancy neocon word here? Please feel free to attack me personally all you want by calling me mentally ill or whatever else."

The neocons have coined the words so-and-so "is on the wrong side of history". Those words strung together are meaningless. History has no sides. To me what those words really mean is that so-and-so "is not doing what we want". If you truly believe in it then you need to explain what it means, because like I said before, those words strung together are just a marketing technique.

Perhaps you mean "so-and-so is on a historical path that appears to be dangerous and destructive"

 
At 5/14/2006 02:32:00 PM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Ehsani,

I don’t think anyone here denies that a lot of reform is needed in Syria and on all fronts, economic, political, social etc.

And though I dislike speaking for the rest but the issue here is that your proposal and analysis is not better in any way. You have read way too many Adam Smith books and don’t seem to know anything when it comes to the real world. African countries are starving due to subsidies the Europeans and Americans have on the agriculture industry. Chocolate makers are growing rich while coco growers in Africa are starving because they have to play by the west’s game by the west’s rules.

You suggest selling-out on ideals in exchange for economic rewards (and I am not saying the ideals of the Ba’ath here). But the problem is even the sell outs have not reaped any rewards. You might not be, but you your ideas and language make you sound like an ass-kisser with no opinion of your own, and I think that is frustrating to a lot of people here. Especially when you obviously don’t know what you are talking about. Sorry for being uuhhmm blunt.

 
At 5/14/2006 02:50:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

IC

It is interesting to hear you commenting about my lack of “real world” experience. I don’t think we have ever met. You know nothing about me. You have no clue what I do for a living. If you are getting frustrated reading my comment, I have other suggestions for you to fill in your time. I am absolutely confident in stating that my life experience and profession make me ideally suited to make the type of comments that I make. As for Adam Smith book, I think that you will be happy to know that I have indeed read all of them just as I read those of Karl Marx. Regrettably, this was 25 years ago.

You don’t have to be sorry about being blunt. You can sound as ignorant and presumptuous as you like. I am used to it by now

 
At 5/14/2006 03:04:00 PM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5/14/2006 03:09:00 PM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5/14/2006 03:12:00 PM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

(sorry about those deleted post, I had difficulties to make the link to "work")

Ugarit, opening markets is no solution on a longer term and could be dangerous if it is uncontrolled and fast. Indeed there would be a huge capital inflow when the foreigners would buy Syrian companies and most lucrative properties. And most probably a massive capital outflow when Syrians would transfer their savings and income from sold businesses and property to safe havens. Much like in old Soviet countries happened during the first years of privatization.

Opening markets must be a controlled and gradual process otherwise the consequences to the huge majority who do not benefit from the privatization “income” will be completely different than accepted. In some Latin American countries where the water resources were privatized (to multinational companies) the consequence was that poor people had to use halve of their income to pure water. That surely doesn’t create a middle class to drive the motor of national economy. Naturally an uprising followed. In most of these water privatization cases the consequences have been disastrous. The citizens did not get better and cheaper water, on the contrary, but the foreign investors got a “healthy” profit margin. And this is only on example from a narrow segments privatization.

What Syria needs is a stabile and peaceful neighbourhood to develop. Syria has huge possibilities in tourism and as a petrochemical hub. Syria would also needs that USA stopped its “childish” regime change policy + sanctions and let Syrian people alone decide what kind of the system they want. Much of the Middle East rather bad economical performance depends from the fact how outside forces and domestic politicians make countries fight against each other in economical development. If there would be a bigger unity among the Arab countries the economical reality in the area would be completely different in 10 years. But is that what Israel and USA want or what they fear? Would a wealthy highly industrially developed Syria be a smaller strategic threat to Israel before the big issues (Golan Heights and Palestine) are solved? Does Israel want to solve those (water resource which it needs) problems? So the future of Syrian economy is not only in Syrian hands or what kind of regime it has.

 
At 5/14/2006 05:08:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

Ehsani2:

I recall that you said that your tax bracket is 39%. This would mean that your income level is above 95% of americans! Therefore, your "real" life experience is with the haves and not with the have nots. Consequently, your perspective on economic issues is a very narrow one, since you seem to reiterate what the plutocrats want.

 
At 5/14/2006 06:47:00 PM, Blogger George Ajjan said...

There has been a lot of interesting discussion here. I would still like to see hard numbers of major economic indicators for a variety of scenarios in which Syria embraced free markets, or whatever term we would like to use, to varying degrees. SimoHurta and Ehsani, if you could oblige...

I find Ehsani´s economic arguments compelling, although his summary of US-Syrian relations since the Iraq War is oversimplified.

 
At 5/14/2006 07:03:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

Ehsani2:

I think a problem for our debate raging here is that your arguments are all derived from a particular economic paradigm that many of us simply reject outright, and I would not be surprised at all to find out that this conventional model was provided by a fine american university and ripened by your years of experience in corperate america (perhaps). I think most of the people on either of these blogs would not disagree that the economic policies of the current syrian regime (and historically for syria) have been a disaster, and that they need to be changed radically.
However, what makes - at least- me recoil in horror, is your whole hearted advocacy for importing a american brand capitalistic economic mentality and philosophy to Syria or anywhere else.

I agree with Simohurtta's queri: what are we exactly talking about when we say "free markets"?????? I mean the US doesn't even operate free markets...a la Adam Smith. There never were truely free markets here. Far from it!!!.... The USA runs a welfare-state for the cooperations...nationally, and now internationally. Perhaps if you were more qualified in your prescriptions..this would help. I mean the countries of the EU....and scandinavia have relatively 'free markets', but these are encased in social systems that are socialistic democracies (most i believe) that attempt to mitigate the negative effects of markets...on the individual and the social fabric, and they rest on very protective welfare states. You might counter, that even in these countries, the economies are distressed (high unemployment etc) and that currently -the gov'tments are moving towards more american economic tendencies. But relatively, I think it is safe to say that France and the like are not about to worship at the altar of the Corperation they way America does.

As many commentors have pointed out, American modeled capitalistic markets are not concerned with who actually benefits from the economic gains. Accumulation of capital is the end in itself, and rarely does this have to do with the well being of the general society. The water privatization example was perfect, but there are a hundred other examples.

I can barely stand to hear you attempt to chime the accomplishments of the Bush administration's economic policies. Hardly can one president either be blamed nor praised with having being directly responsible for the current year by year state of the economy (it is clearly more complex and more stable than that). The situation is always a function of ongoing policies that have been built up over time, as well as international events. Have said that, it still astounds me that you can claim that the economic situation is so positive....that we are basking in "wealth " and "job" creation, and the proof in pudding is GDP growth and the stock market stability.
!!!!!! Come on! As Ugarit points out: what universe do you live in! go out in the street once in a while and talk to a few middle and lower middle class americans!
1). The majority of us don't own stock in the markets, nor any real property at all. Hard to believe, isn't it....but true. We live paycheck to paycheck or on credit cards. Yes the average standard of living here is soooo high compared with other countries in the world, no doubt about it! but compared to the actual amount of wealth contained or generated in the country? It is utterly shameful!
2.) Ask any bloak, and he/she will tell you how their credit card debt is scary or they are maxed out all the time and they are being raped by credit card companies interest charges on a continual basis. And by insurance companies......housing prices.....energy prices.....It is sick.
3.) Every six months or so these days....the price of our health insurance is going up.....but surprise, we can barely utilize our benefits.........
4.) REAL wages have been going down down down....compared to inflation for a few decades now.
5.) 90% of the so called job creation....is working at Taco Bell and Walmart, for example. Ok not exactly, but you get my point. It is mostly in the service sector. And actually this may help the poorest americans and immigrants to just survive, but the middle class is flailing. More amercians are working more hours, and part-time...for less money. Our measures of unemployment are totally misleading, as they do not at all account for the differences in actual employment practices, nor do they reflect the amount of people not actively looking for work or simply underemployed.
6.) ahhh "Wealth Creation"! and just about all of it goes to the top 2% of the population and the corperate coffers. Soon we could be just like latin america.
7.) Who gives a shit about GDP....it really doesn't tell us anything about how actual people are actually living.....and the well-being of the average american. NOTHING at all.
8.) and....HOW ABOUT THAT DEFICIT!...thank you George Bush....we will be paying that back for another three lifetimes.
9.) This fantastic economic prosperity...you like to tout....is nothing but corporate prosperity, and your trickle down notions are such crap. Even if one could accept that......it is built on the backs of a multinational corporate expansion....that now exploits the foreign laborer, something that to my mind, does not validate the glory of capital and markets.
10.) Where the hellllll do our taxes go exactly!.... disproportionately, into the damn bank account of the defense department.

So.......You want to import this this fantastic system and ideology to Syria and around the globe. It has been done before, you know. And the result - as others above have implied - is the continued strangulation and subjugation of the pitiful economies of those underdeveloped countries. It holds them in servitude endlessly and ceaselessly. Structural adjustment programs, privatization, massive loans and borrowing (indepted to guess who!....those New York banks...JP Morgan and friends)...WHO IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BENEFIT?? go ask the latin american farmer.

Hey, nobody is advocating communism or even pure socialistic..economies . But let us acknowlege.....what the history is first of our capitalist enterprises! How they survive by the exploitation of cheap (now global) labor and through the barrel of a gun. Lets be honest, and then maybe we can go about the long hard task of establishing 'free market' economies in a more egalitarian and progressive way. Not utilizing the american gluttonous hypocricy paradigm.

 
At 5/14/2006 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

ok, i apologize to everyone.....for the length of that tirade.
i don't know what is wrong with me...to go on....in this way.....couldn't help it...

 
At 5/14/2006 07:36:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Zanobia of the East and west (love the name by the way),

You don’t have to apologize to anyone. This was a passionate post, thank you. Ugarit and SimoHurtta have also made it clear that they do not appreciate in the least the tone of my economic remarks. All of you make good points (this does not mean that I agree with them though).

For the record, I am not surprised at all by the response. My comments on economics have constantly irked a lot of people. A friend of mine asked me to stick to this subject and leave politics alone. I am no aspiration to get into professional politics of any sort. I will therefore try to follow his advice and stick to economics from now on (I will at least try).
When I wrote my first post here back in November, my intention was to bring discussions on economic matters to the forefront. A number of excellent discussions have taken place since. The one on Hugo Chavez comes to mind for example.

Since I have been branded a neocon and a Bush white House mouthpiece, I think that is time for me to start and craft a post to defend myself.

I will make the time to write a post with an exclusive focus on the Syrian economy. I will try to spell out in as much detail as possible the type of economic policies that I feel Syria needs to embrace if it wants to turn its economy around. The only constraint is time of course. But I promise to find it soon.

 
At 5/14/2006 09:16:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Ehsani2 ,i enjoy you economic thoghts but disagree with your politecal ones and i understand Somohutta cocern ,In the economic point Syria needs simple changes without selling the country,The gov should provide good roads ,uninterepted elecrisity good alimentry to high school education ,affordable post high school education ,Railroad system , good airport ,seaport,establish contract law and enforce it ,establish a fair tax system with a flat tax of about 17% after the first 60,000.00 Syrian pounds with deduction for buisness expense, morgage on first home and donation to charities approved by the Goverment ,provide low iterest rate lowns to small buisnesses ,establish a stock market with rules that will prevent speculations and encourage Syrian companies to enlist with preffered contracting status forign companies who enlist will have a preffered treatment to a lesser extend divedents that are payed to Syrians from these companies will be subjected to the same tax rate ie 17% but on Syrian copanies the tax on divedents and capital gain will be 10% to improve investment in Syrian companies no syrian companies should be owned by more than half by a forign firm without regulatery Syrian approval,and at the end the Syrian goverment should get out of trying to regulate what Syria needs and leave that to the market so if i want to open a farmasutical factory they should give the prmit if i am qualified and get out of deciding what drug i can make because other people making simmiler drug and leave that to the market,if i am better i will stay in buisness and the other will get out of buisness ,the gov could make it easier to export Syrian products by frier and fairer trade.some people thing that Syria needs heavy industries to have a good economy but the american economy and many other economies are composed of small buisnesses where most the jobs are and that is easy to acheive if the goverment gets out of the way and be happy collecting the 17% tax.Tax should be estimated and certified only by certified accountants,that will prevent bribery and make Syrians willing to pay their fair taxes as everybody will be paying.

 
At 5/15/2006 12:45:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Ehsani2,

Sorry for all the negativity.

I look forward to reading and learning from your next piece on the Syrian economy. I just hope you also take into account the idiosyncracies of Syrians.

If you can find the time, try to also outline the way those changes can be introduced without mcuh resistance to change (just like in politics that we will nto talk about anymore)

 
At 5/15/2006 06:44:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

I recommend that everyone, and in particular Ehsani2, read the following book:

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

 
At 5/15/2006 06:52:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5/15/2006 07:42:00 AM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

Let us take Finland as an example of opening markets. Now Finland is one of the wealthiest and most high-tech countries of the world. After WW2 Finland was still a poor, agricultural country. Finland had to pay huge war “compensations” (compared to the GDP) to Soviet Union after the war. Much of these payments had to be made in machines, metals, ships etc. products. This forced the government to establish and enlarge the existing engineering industry. Much of the core heavy industry was state owned. During the next 30 years Finland had one of the fastest shifts in history in sources of livelihood. The country side was “emptied”, women began to work in factories and offices. Being on of the few bridges between east and west Finland profited quite much with the trade with the Soviet block.

Until the end of 70’s the majority of companies operating in Finland had to be owned by Finns. Only Finns could own land. The custom barriers were high, national competitiveness was secured with massive changes in the currency’s value (devaluations) when needed. In the end of 70’s Finland begun slowly to open. Money markets were opened in the middle of 80’s which caused am massive bubble in property values. Ownership of companies was opened to foreigners. The last barriers were demolished when Finland joined EU in 1995.

In the beginning of 90’s Finland had a crash in economy almost in the scale of Argentina. The government had to travel around the world to lend money with a very high margin. Much of the crash was caused by the consequences of opening of the markets (overheating of economy and a massive financial bubble) but also because the huge bilateral trade to Soviet Union ended. In the beginning of 90’s Nokia was in so bad financial state that the owning banks tried to make Ericsson from Sweden to buy it. They did not want it, lucky to Finns (even Nokia today is owned mostly by US based investment funds).

When Finland entered the phase that we could call “free market” (although only inside EU) the industry and service sector were strong enough to cope with outside competition, the legislation was up-to-date etc. Most of the growth was done before the era of “free trade” even begun.

People like Eshani2 should understand that the example Finland is equal to most European and Asian countries. Eshani2 should also understand that much of USA’s success was based that the country formed a big domestic market area, not on free trade with other countries. Actually USA has been rather protective. Much of the wealth USA has managed to generate was/is based on USD’s role as the dominate world currency and in the ability to get access to cheap raw material sources in foreign countries and the ability of using their cheap labour. The little US companies did pay for fruits, oil and metals to friendly dictatorship governments (which USA helped to get power and keep it) even returned much of the “income” to US bank and as investments in USA. Free trade is no short cut to wealth and prosperity. It has never been. Syria should also follow the international examples. First achieve a sufficient level of development and the gradually open markets.

 
At 5/15/2006 10:03:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

Is there evidence that Syrians were better off before the Baath? By Syrians I mean the majority of Syrians and not the emirs, landowner, bankers, merchants. Why do I limit the pool of Syrians?, because the ones mentioned above were probably in the top 1% of the population.

 
At 5/15/2006 10:11:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

I can't remember which South American leader said this, but I'll try to paraphrase.

"In the past we had worry about brain-drain to the US and now we have to worry about brain-rot from the returning economists who studied in the US."

This was from the 1990's. I'll try to track it down.

 
At 5/15/2006 06:37:00 PM, Blogger George Ajjan said...

SimoHurtta,

Thanks for the informative post on Finland.

Can you specify what you believe Syria ought to do in the short to medium term to achieve a "sufficient level of development" before gradually opening markets?

 
At 5/15/2006 07:42:00 PM, Blogger Grim Ghost said...

I know that this is a blog about Syria, not Pakistan, but this argument is garbage.

Musharfaf was the man who had laid a master plan to invade India in 1999, nearly leading to nuclear war. Even after coming to power, even after Sept. 11th, he continued to support terrorists operating in India, including an attempted attack on India's Parliament. This attack led India to deploy its armies on the boredr with Pakistan, leading to another incendiiary situation, where war between India and Pakistan, possibly nuclear war, could have broken out. Furthermore, he turned a blind eye to the AQ Khan network, which has faciliated far more possible danger to the world than anything a hundred Syrias could have achieved.

Presenting Musharraf as some moderate is just nonsense. The reason he was able to get huge amounts of money and support from the US after 911 was several fold:

1) Pakistan has a long standing history with the Taliban (which was heavily influenced by the ISI) and happened to be in exactly the right place to either benefit or hurt the US. Being a dictatorship, Pakistn was able to take action which heavily benefited it, but was probably unpopular domestically. [ By contrast, Turkey being a democracy, was not able to allow US troops passage in the lead up to the IRaq was, despite being bribed with $30 Billion]
2) Musharraf has done an excellent job in portraying himself as the one indispensable man holding back Islamism in Pakistan. This is nonsense, but the US fell for it.
3) Pakistan has a long history of collaborating with the US -- predating even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. THus the possibility of again using Pakistan as an ally did not strike anyone as as strange as allying with Syria.

4) While Pakistan has been a major sponsor of terrorism in India, responsible for thousands of deaths, the US has always treated it with kid gloves, not calling it a terrorist supporting nation. Partly this may be becaus eof the collaboration mentioned in 3. Also, the victims of Syrian terrorism has been Israele, while the victims of Pakistani terrorism has been Indian. The US has not historically regarded India as a close ally, the India lobby does not match the strength of the Israeli lobby, and the US does not consider Indian lives lost in terrorism as important as Israeli lives lost. Hence, it would be hard to imagine US-Syria co-operation, while co-operation with Pakistan is common.

 
At 5/16/2006 02:08:00 AM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

Grim Ghost is damn right.

 
At 5/16/2006 09:05:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

George Ajjan asked SimoHurtta "Can you specify what you believe Syria ought to do in the short to medium term to achieve a "sufficient level of development" before gradually opening markets?"

One major thing that needs to happen is first the "internal" opening of the market, i.e. Syrians inside and outside Syria must be permitted to compete in the Syrian market. One possiblity is that if an expat syrian invests in syria a certain amount and employs a certain amount of syrians then he can be exempted from military service. The laws must protect the investors and the employees. The hardest part will be to applying the laws, as we all know.

 
At 5/16/2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Ugarit.............

That would be favoring the wealthy and putting the poor at a disadvantage, no?

I am surprised that YOU would come up with such an idea. Rich Syrians who have the money from their overseas earnings can get exemptions while the poor Syrian locals who have no money to invest serve for your protection?

Even EHSANI2 would never dream of such a suggestion.

 
At 5/16/2006 12:03:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Grim Ghost,

Good post, thank you. Even though you referred to my argument as "garbage", I think the conclusion of your point 2 agrees with the spirit of my thoughts.

I am referring to your suggestion that "Musharaaf has done an excellent job portraying himself as the one indispensable man holding back Islamism in Pakistan. This is noneses, but the US fell for it."

Bashar could have just as easily "fooled" the Americans. After all, his father and regime has had an excellent and proven track record in this arena. Instead, it is the bearded men who are his friends now.

 
At 5/16/2006 03:15:00 PM, Blogger SimoHurtta said...

The major issue of Syrian economical development is naturally the Israel question. Will Israel ever give back the water resources of Golan Heights and West Bank and want to make a real peace with its neighbours? I suppose that will only happen if and when USA forces them to do that. Else Israeli hide behind the old security claim that they need these vital areas (to everybody) for security reasons. Like a 10 - 30 kilometres difference in borders would make any difference in security to a country with hundreds of nuclear bombs.

On a shorter term before the major issue is solved Syria should first somehow erase so much as possible from the wide spread historical corruption (which is a historical fundamental cancer not only to Syria but to all the countries on the area, Christian or Muslim) which makes starting businesses difficult and also dangers the continuity of smaller businesses.*) Naturally modern lawns relating to economical rights and responsibilities are important and there must also be an effort to make those laws reality.

Increasing economical activity is done buy numerous buy the government and also private capital.
The government can do much with tax relief, aerial development supports etc. Maybe Ugarit’s idea of avoiding military service if some employs a certain number of Syrians is a little “undemocratic”, but it is very good idea if “freed persons” are in reality running the businesses. The business owners do much more benefit to their country by making their businesses to grow than playing soldier games. Eshani2 in USA during the draft time there were many ways an American rich guy could avoid military service, the famous examples are George Bush himself and those serving in his cabinet.. Even today the rich do not fight in USA’s colonial wars.

*) In the western countries the young people dream about richness by becoming business owners or mangers. In may estern countries they dream to become civil servants and rich. But as said corruption has a long historical tradition and deeply rooted in the society.

 
At 5/16/2006 04:20:00 PM, Blogger ugarit said...

EHSANI2:

You're right it would favor the wealthier Syrians, and you're right they are the ones who have the money to invest. However, there needs to be a taxation system that would create a social system that can support the welfare of the needy.

Investment in reale state speculation should not be accepted as investment. I see a lot of space of corruption in the method I proposed, but if applied correctly it may work.

In addition, the government should create a system for small business and micro loans to spark small businesses.

 
At 5/16/2006 06:36:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Micro Loans....That is my favourite topic and a superb business venture (both for non-profit as well as for profit). I will write in more detail about this and other economic matters over the next few weeks (too busy now)
I was kidding with my helping the rich comments incidentally!

SimoHurtta,

Good comments as usual. Regards to Scandinavia

 
At 5/17/2006 06:09:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

ehsani2:

I look forward to your article about micro loans. So I guess we're beginning to agree somewhat :-)

 
At 5/17/2006 06:21:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

As expats we can setup a micro loans bank (outside syria for now) and begin to issue loans. How can one start such a project? What kind or protection is there to such a venture within Syrian? Perhaps if the bank were in Turkey, the Syrian government would not be too suspicious and paranoid over it.

 
At 5/17/2006 06:24:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

An additional thing, if a syrian works for a company which an expat invested in that employee can defer his military service.

 
At 5/17/2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

Ehsani, FYI.

 
At 5/17/2006 04:22:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Tony,

Thank you. Gary is a prolific writer

 
At 5/18/2006 06:20:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

الآغا خان للتنمية) تؤسس مصرفاً للقروض الصغيرة


تعمل شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية مع الحكومة السورية على المدى الطويل من أجل دعم تطوير المبادرات التنموية الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والثقافية والاسهام فيها فضلاً عن العمل في سبع مناطق وهي دمشق وحلب وسلمية ومصياف واللاذقية وطرطوس والسويداء.

ومن النقاط المهمة التي يقوم عليها عمل شبكة الآغا خان في سورية هو التغلب على التحدي الذي تواجهه والمتمثل بالبطالة وذلك من خلال لعب دور المحفز للأعمال الرائدة بالاعتماد على الطاقات الكامنة الخلاقة لقوة العمل المثقفة والتي يتم تعزيزها من خلال توفير العوامل المساعدة مثل إمكانية الحصول على التمويل وعلى خدمات تطوير الأعمال التجارية. وتمَّ في إطار عمل وكالة الآغا خان للقروض الصغيرة توزيع ما يزيد على 900 مليون ليرة سورية (18 مليون دولار) على شكل قروض لما يزيد على 15 ألفاً من أصحاب المشاريع الصغيرة,غالبيتهم من الشباب والنساء. كما تقوم شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية حالياً في تأسيس مؤسسة وطنية للقروض الصغيرة,هي المصرف الأول للقروض الصغيرة في سورية الذي سيكون أول مصرف من نوعه في الشرق الأوسط.‏

تلعب شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية دوراً حيوياً في الصحة والتعليم والتنمية الريفية,ففي مجال الرعاية الصحية تسعى برامج شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية بصورة حثيثة الى تحسين الوضع الصحي للمجتمعات المحلية من خلال لجان تنمية القرى التابعة لبرنامج القرى الصحية في وزارة الصحة.كما تدعم الشبكة برنامجاً وطنياً لتحسين التمريض يركز على تحسين تعليم التمريض وخدماته,وتقوم شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية بتوفير التخطيط والتصميم اللازمين للمساعدة في بناء مشفى سلمية الجديد ومن المقرر أن يستخدم هذا التصميم كنموذج لبناء مشاف مجتمعية مشابهة في أجزاء أخرى من سورية.‏

وفي مجال التنمية الريفية تركز شبكة الآغا خان للتنمية بصورة رئيسية على تحسين إدارة المياه في المناطق الريفية,ويتضمن ذلك خلق الوعي الطويل الأجل بتوفر المياه والمحاصيل المقاومة للجفاف,كما تشتمل مبادرة المؤسسة على برامج لزيادة الإنتاجية الزراعية وتنويع مصادر الدخل وتحسين المعيشة الريفية.‏

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