Economic News and More (13 July 2011)

Economic News (Thanks Ehsani)

The weak Syrian state is incapable of taxing its people.

  • Syria’s tax receipts from all alcoholic beverages in 2009 was $425k.
  • Tax receipts from tobacco were $49 million for a country of 23 million people. (60 percent of adult males and 23 percent of adult females in Syria smoke. Around 8 percent of a Syrian smoker’s income is spent on 3.6 kilos of tobacco a year. American men smoked at a rate of nearly 24 percent of the population.)
  • In spite of the enormous rise in real estate values in the past decade, Syria only collects a total of $36 million in real estate taxes.
  • The country only collects 4% in taxes and duties on total imports worth $13.8 billion.

Farouq al-Sharaa, Syria’s V.P., declares that Syria’s growth rate never reached 6% as claimed by previous governments. These figures were “manipulated”, he said and growth never exceeded 3.7%

الشرع: الحكومة السابقة تلاعبت في بيانات النمو ونسبه الاخبار المحليةSyria News

كشف نائب رئيس الجمهورية فاروق الشرع إن بيانات النمو ونسبه كان يتم تقديمها بشكل متلاعب به من قبل الحكومة السابقة.   وقال الشرع، خلال إحدى مداخلاته في اللقاء التشاوري لمؤتمر الحوار الوطني الذي اختتم أعماله اليوم الثلاثاء، نقلها موقع الاقتصادي, إن “بيانات النمو ونسبه كان يتم تقديمها بشكل متلاعب به من قبل الحكومة السابقة، حيث كانت تقدمه على أنّه 6-7%، بينما يؤكّد الخبراء أنّه لم يكن يتجاوز 3.5%”.

وكانت الحكومة السابقة برئاسة محمد ناجي عطري حددت في الخطة الخمسية العاشرة (2006- 2010) معدل النمو المستهدف بـ 7 %, فيما صرح نائب رئيس الحكومة السابق للشؤون الاقتصادية عبد الله الدردري مرارا الى وجود مؤشرات ايجابية في الخطة ومنها تحقيق متوسط للنمو يصل الى 5.5 %.

وشككت مؤسسات رسمية وخبراء اقتصاديون وقطاعات أهلية بأرقام الحكومة السابقة فيما يتعلق بمعدلات النمو ومعدلات البطالة والفقر وغيرها من المؤشرات, حيث أشار الاتحاد العام لنقابات العمال في تقرير له عام 2010 الى أن معدل النمو الاقتصادي في سورية لم يتجاوز 3.7 % بينما كانت تعلن الحكومة انه قريب من 6 %.

وكان الرئيس بشار الأسد قبل استقالة الحكومة السابقة برئاسة محمد ناجي عطري في شهر نيسان الماضي، وكلف عادل سفر بتشكيل حكومة جديدة، وذلك بعد أسابيع من بدء الاحتجاجات التي تشهدها مدن سورية، والتي راح ضحيتها مئات الشهداء من مدنيين ورجال الجيش وعناصر الأمن.

Foreign direct investment in Syria fell by 28 percent last year to USD 1.85 billion, according to a newly released report, writes Syria Report.

Economy Syria Considers Lowering Retirement Age to 52 (Syria Report)

The Syrian government is working on a draft scheme to reduce the retirement age of civil servants from 60 to 52, according to Mohammad Jleilati, Minister of Finance.

An Iraqi pipeline carrying crude oil to Syria was blown up on July 10, interrupting supplies, according to an Iraqi news agency.

Al-Moallem discuses with Iraqi Premier regional situation.

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sufian Allaw discussed with his Iraqi couterpart Abdul-Karim Luaibi cooperation in the field of oil and gas and means of transferring Iraqi oil production to the Mediterranean across Syria. The two sides signed a memo of understanding on establishing a network of oil and gas pipelines to transfer Iraqi crude oil and gas across Syria.

<b>Syrian Pharmaceutical Industries Sector</b>

Abdul-Muhsen said that Iraq imports 90% of its medicinal needs; thus, this agreement will open the door for the Syrian factories to export their products to Iraq.

On Tuesday too, Minister of health discussed with a delegation of Italian companies’ representatives best means of cooperation in order to amend equipments for Aleppo and Homs oncology centers.

Minister Al-Halqi said that the Ministry, in cooperation with European Investment Bank and Curie institute for oncology, pointed out at the importance of operating the two centers as soon as possible.

For their parts, members of the Italian delegation expressed their readiness to cooperate at amending the equipments for the two centers after reviewing all the details related……

U.S. Favorable Ratings Plummet Across the Arab World View the poll in full

WASHINGTON – July 13, 2011 – The Arab American Institute (AAI) released the findings of a poll today conducted in six Arab nations. Commissioned promptly after President Obama’s state department address on the popular uprisings in the Arab world, over 4000 people were surveyed. Four key findings of the poll are:

  • U.S. and Obama favorable ratings are at a record low
  • Top Arab concerns are U.S. interference in the region and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Killing bin Laden has not improved relations with the region
  • There is a mixed mood on the Arab Spring

One Syrian writes:

These guys in Damascus keep changing their minds…they do something on day and decide to reverse it the next. Even Sharaa backtracked on what Bashar said yesterday. Now he is saying we will talk to even those who call for regime change. Bashar yesterday said he would not talk to them.

Syrian FM says crisis between Syria and U.S., France, to be solved

DAMASCUS, Jul 13, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem said Wednesday the recent crisis erupted between his country and the United States and France over protesters’ attack on the two’s embassies, would be solved within the framework of the Vienna Conventions. “I believe that demonstrators shouldn’t bypass the boundaries of the two embassies,” Moallem told a joint press conference with the Arab League (AL) chief Nabil el-Arabi. “Whoever did that was wrong … They (the embassies) shouldn’t be bypassed,” he said, adding that an expression of protest is ” legitimate but in a peaceful way.” He reasserted that the Syrian government is responsible for protecting the embassies and their staffs, saying “and we bear full responsibility for that.”  al-Moallem, meanwhile, said diplomats should obtain prior permission before heading to restive areas so that the government could be able to protect their security.

U.S. Hardens Tone Against Syria’s Assad
By Jim Lobe, July 13, 2011

Escalating its rhetoric against Bashar Al-Assad, the White House declared Tuesday that the Syrian president had “lost his legitimacy” but declined to call explicitly for his resignation or removal….

The tougher rhetoric, as well as Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to Hama, comes amid growing pressure on the administration, notably from neo-conservative sectors and some liberal hawks, such as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, to take stronger measures against the regime….

“To help end the bloodshed, Washington will need to be equally ruthless” in applying such sanctions as Assad has been in applying his “iron-fist-in-velvet-glove approach” to the uprising against him, warned Tabler, who also claimed Tuesday that the administration was preparing such measures “behind the scenes” as part of a “quiet sea change” in its approach to Damascus.

But such an approach carries significant risks, according to Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma who publishes the widely read blog.

“If we go down the road of augmenting sanctions in a serious way, that’s a slippery slope toward military intervention, because sanctions alone can’t overturn the regime,” he told IPS. “We haven’t seen a regime in the Middle East as tough as Assad’s collapse because of poverty, and we’ve learned from recent experience that poverty and blowing out the middle class are not the way to build a successful democracy in any case.”

Ironically, he said, the latest events have served the purposes of both capitals.

“For Washington, Ford’s trip and the tougher-sounding rhetoric demonstrate that Obama is on the side of the Arab Spring and eases the pressure on him by the critics to recall (the ambassador). And by sending Ford into the eye of the storm in Hama, Clinton has made it easier for Assad to rally his supporters around the charge that the U.S. is leading the effort to destabilise Syria,” he said, adding that the latest developments were unlikely to substantially change the balance of power within the country…..

Life Among Syria’s Not-So-Secret Police
The power of Assad’s Mukhabarat lies largely in its visibility.

….In late January, when I arrived in Syria to study Arabic, most people seemed to have learned that lesson well, including my friend Ahmed. I met him at the University of Aleppo. He was a soft-spoken, 22-year-old graduate student who liked to tell me about his girlfriend and wasn’t very political. We mostly discussed poetry, compared our cultures, incessantly told dirty jokes, and generally agreed on our values. He and most young Syrians I met dwelt little on the difficulty of life under authoritarianism. They acknowledged that Syria had “problems,” but argued that President Assad was an intelligent leader dedicated to reform. They waited for change, and in the meantime shared the daily concerns of young people the world over: They studied, made friends, and dreamed of falling in love. Politically, both they and I expected the status quo, and none of us foresaw the uprisings and bloodshed to come.

Then in March, the uprisings around the Middle East spread to the south of Syria, and slowly moved north. The reaction from Damascus was fast and brutal. My language program was canceled and evacuated, but I stayed and in mid-April set out in a rickety service taxi to Belayoun. The violence had not yet reached the sleepy town, but already its inhabitants’ outlook had been transformed why what was happening in their country.

Gone was their hope for Assad’s reforms. The vicious crackdowns in Dara’a, and then in the cities of Homs and Hama, had become symbols of the thorough illegitimacy of the president’s regime of institutionalized brutality. Belayoun’s residents were no longer resigned to the injustices they had been conditioned to accept. Suddenly my friend Ahmed, the shy literature major, had become a revolutionary, by dint of joining millions of Syrians in asking to be treated like human beings and not subjects of the state. He stopped talking about his girlfriend, preferring to watch foreign news broadcasts about Syria as his face darkened with rage.

It was this transformation in people like Ahmed that brought the tanks to Homs and Hama, to highways all over Syria, and even to little Belayoun. The people are rejecting the lesson of fear, beaten into them by decades of surveillance and intimidation. Hope is emerging even in the shadow of the Mukhabarat, the sort of hope that brings men and women to the streets to stare down gun barrels. They’ve got nothing to lose—to the Syrian protesters, a life devoid of freedom hardly feels like life at all.

Mr. Panter is an undergraduate at Cornell University studying government; he left Syria on May 18.

White House, in Shift, Turns Against Syria Leader
By MARK LANDLER and DAVID E. SANGER, July 12, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, after weeks of urging Syria to carry out democratic reforms and end a brutal crackdown, has now turned decisively against President Bashar al-Assad, saying that he has lost legitimacy and that it has no interest in Mr. Assad keeping his grip on power.

President Obama, in an interview Tuesday with the “CBS Evening News,” stopped short of demanding that Mr. Assad step down. But administration officials said the president may take that step in coming days, as he did with Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, much earlier in that country’s popular uprising.

Mr. Obama’s comments, and even stronger ones by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, showed that the administration has now concluded that Mr. Assad is no more willing or capable than Colonel Qaddafi of opening a dialogue with protesters or overseeing a political transformation.

The turning point in the administration’s public posture came after angry crowds attacked and vandalized the United States Embassy in Damascus, and the residence of Ambassador Robert Ford, after his visit to Hama, the hub of the current protests and site of a bloody crackdown by Mr. Assad’s father in 1982.

Syria’s Christians fearful of future: As protests rage on, many in the community are concerned about the possible future influence of Islamist groups. Ambassador Ford was expelled from a church in Damascus, yesterday.

Good Debate on al-Jazeera between Muhammad Abdullah and Faisal Abd al-Satih, two articulate opponents. Muhammad Abdullah has been a guest in my house on a number of occasions when he first came to the US two years ago. His story is an interesting one. Following his release from jail in Syria, he was granted refugee status in the US. His father was arrested in 2005 for reading a letter written by the Muslim Brotherhood out loud at the Atassi Forum in Damascus. The US government located him to Oklahoma City, where he was given a subsidized apartment for three months. He got a job at Walmart as a cashier. After his subsidy ran out and he had practiced his English to a degree, he moved to Washington DC, where he seems to be doing well. He is a lawyer by training and is originally from Deir ez-Zor.

Peterson Inst: Economic Sanctions Case: EU, US v. Syrian Arab Republic (2011- : human rights, democracy) [pdf], 2011-07-12

Post-2000 the United States has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Syria, in response to: (1) Syria’s support for terrorist groups and terrorist activities in Iraq; (2) its pursuit of missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) …

This Flag is My Flag
by by Amal Hanano for Jadiliyya

For two hours on Wednesday, I was in the safest place in Syria: at “The Longest Syrian Flag in the World,” pro-regime rally in Aleppo. The security protected, 1700 m flag, is touring “sympathetic” cities like Damascus, Suwaida, and now Aleppo, covering the muhalleq, beltway from al-Bassel Circle to al-Layramoon Circle. I figured since everyone constantly calls me a mundesseh, infiltrator, I might as well live up to the name and andass, infiltrate the event to get a closer look at the mysteriously brainwashed masses ……

The volunteers crossed the flag in socked feet out of respect, but when an over-enthusiastic guy accidentally stepped on the president’s shoulder while taking a picture, the crowd booed, “You stepped on the president!” He looked alarmed for one second but then jumped back, kneeled down and kissed the image. Suddenly, people started bringing their children to the plastic president to kneel and kiss his image as well. A large, military helicopter circled in the sky, and every time it passed, people would wave and chant. Someone whispered to me that the president was in it, wearing a gray suit, watching over us. The feared and admired gaze never leaves us…..

A Free Society: The Syrian Challenge, 2011-07-11

The administration’s policy toward Syria is shaping up to be the greatest missed opportunity of Barack Obama’s presidency. His failure of vision and nerve, paired with an acute Republican fatigue with the Middle East and foreign policy in …

Thousands of Iraqis face long wait for visas — and entry to U.S.

BAGHDAD — Heightened security concerns in the United States have stalled the immigration process for tens of thousands of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or American firms in Iraq and hope to move to the United States, according to U.S. officials and refugee advocates. A special program meant to distribute 25,000 visas to Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government has admitted just 7,000 since it started in 2008, officials said this week.

Hama stands firm
Jul 11th 2011, by The Economist

THE city of Hama is both defiant and fearful. Boys with wooden sticks man makeshift checkpoints. Burned-out government cars, rubbish bins, gates, piles of bricks and street-lamps unscrewed at the base and carefully laid across the road have been used to create blockades to prevent the security forces from re-entering the city. Even satellite dishes, with the name of Al-Dounia, a pro-regime channel, scribbled over with Al-Jazeera, have been used. The streets are eerily quiet; shop shutters are locked and the roads are almost empty of cars. No sign of the Assad regime remains. Pictures of the president, Bashar Assad, have been torn down and a plinth where a statue of his father, Hafez, once towers stands empty. Outside the city, the government’s forces wait.

A week ago the government tried re-take the city. In response, residents say, neighbourhoods organised overnight. At least 24 people have been killed in Hama and 500 arrested since the unrest began, but security forces have not been able to enter the main areas of the city of 800,000. The city, the fourth largest in Syria, has been galvanised by its size and by its history. Everyone knows each other and word travels quickly. Everyone has a relative who died in 1982 when Hafez Assad, the former president, killed tens of thousands in an effort to quash an Islamist uprising. Everyone knows someone who lost a son, husband or father on June 3rd, a date now similarly etched on the city’s memory, when over 70 people were shot dead. They have been able to organise quickly and effectively.

Comments (310)

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301. why-discuss said:

The official said Ford chose to visit Hama because protests there were peaceful. He said he would not travel to Homs because protests had used violence there.

The ambassador chose not to go to Homs because some people of the opposition have used violence there and he can’t condone that. In order for the US to have integrity we cannot condone violence on either side, while recognising that it is the Syrian government that has committed far and away most of the violence.

Professor Lisa Anderson, president of the American University in Cairo, suggests that the crisis in Syria will be protracted because the army is loyal to the regime rather than the state

In a lecture to the LSE, Anderson contrasts the loyalty of the army in Syria to army desertions in Libya and the refusal of the Egyptian army to fire on protesters. She says the key distinction is whether the army is seen as an extension of the regime, as in the case of Syria, or a protector of state as in the case of Egypt.

This is one of the crucial questions… If it [the army] is the agent of the state they are prepared to sacrifice the regime, if they are the agent of the regime they are clearly not.

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July 15th, 2011, 10:08 pm


302. why-discuss said:


Many Lebanese sunni who had only daughters converted to shia so their daughter could inherit.

Look at the changes of the divorce law in Iran in favor of the wife. Compare then to the Sunni\’s divorce law.

1992 amendments extend wife�s access to divorce by addition of following grounds: husband�s non-maintenance for up to six months for any reason;( a whole page of reasons …..)

Amendment in 1992l wife may obtain divorce if husband marries without her permission or does not treat co-wives equitably in court�s assessment.

1992 reforms make registration of divorce without court certificate illegal;

1992 amendments extended divorced wife�s financial rights from maintenance during �idda and deferred dower, to right to claim compensation for household services rendered to husband during marriage.

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July 15th, 2011, 10:33 pm


303. Tara said:


Interesting, the little I knew. I thought Shiaa has stricter doctrines.

I am tempted now.

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July 15th, 2011, 10:46 pm


304. Aliccie said:

@ why discuss

why discuss in effect. Your feeble effort to defend Iranian and Shia ‘leglislation’ is poor if not sick. Iran (yeah, ‘experimenting in social bla bla’) is a nasty kettle of fish. The beginning of all the islamic revolutions… I as french am totally ashamed that we kept Khomeini in his villa.

Your feeble effort to prove that shia legislation is better than sunni is pathetic. The whole lot are useless because based on ancient outdated texts.

If some poor sunnis ‘convert’ to be able to inherit, well kudos to them. They at least have a bit of sense if that could be the word as for their islamic prison that they are born into.

A few extracts from that website that you didn’t quote :

“1979 Revolution brought end to Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979). Supreme Judicial Council issued proclamation directing courts that all un-Islamic legislation was suspended. Council given remit to revise all existing laws to Islamise legal system, with Ayatollah Khomeini�s fatawa serving as �transitional laws�. Vilayat al-faqih.

(Yeah, like ‘Fatwa against Rushdie, ruining a man’s life)

“Marriage Age: Civil Code provides that marriage contracted before puberty is invalid unless authorized by natural guardian with ward�s best interests in mind.� When authorized before puberty, minimum age is nine.

“Marriage Guardianship: marriage of virgin girl (even after puberty) requires permission of father or paternal grandfather; Special Civil Court may grant permission if guardian refuses without valid reason.

“Marriage Registration: Identity Office must be notified of all temporary ( for prostitution ) or permanent marriages and their dissolution.� Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized.� Baha�i marriages are not recognized.

“Article 12 provides that official religion is Islam and the twelver Ja�fari school; other schools of law to be accorded full respect and freedom of religious practice, including matters of personal status.”


“Children of Baha�i marriages are not recognized as legitimate and, therefore, are denied inheritance rights.

“Child Custody and Guardianship: mother�s custody ends at 2 years for boys and 7 for girls; custody reverts to father if mother remarries.� Mother may be granted custody in certain cases if the father is proven unfit to care for the child.”

you said do a search, well this if for beginners (obviously),or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=97eede9ed711c932&biw=894&bih=507
a christian viewpoint but gives basic origines

“Aside from differing inheritance laws, the Shiite law or Sharia is largely similar to that of Sunni Islam.47

“Some of the other distinctly Shiite beliefs and practices include taqiyah and mutah.52 Taqiyah is when “a man hides his religion or certain of his religious practices in situations that would cause definite or probable danger as a result of the actions of those who are opposed to his religion or particular religious practices.”

“The differences between Shiism and Sunnism are numerous with many details, as well as larger topics such as eschatology and divine justice, left untouched in this article. Though this article has dealt primarily with the beliefs and practice of twelver Shiites, there are also numerous other sects within Shiism such as the Zaydi, Isma`ili, Nizari, Musta`lis, Druze, and Muqanna`ah.56 Some scholars also argue that the Babi, Baha`i, and Batini sects should be considered as derivatives of Shiism, though Shiite scholars such as Allamah Tabatabai say they “should not in any sense be considered as branches of Shiism.”57 However, even the very existence of different sects of Islam ought be viewed as a deep dilemma within Islam in light of Quranic injunction:

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July 16th, 2011, 7:17 pm


305. Tara said:


Hello. Convictions are convictions. They may not sound logic but that does not even matter. There is in my view no points in highlighting where sects and religions differ as it serves no purpose other than to group people into ” us” and ” others”.

The way I was personally raised in Damascus is that there is no big difference between mainstream Sunni and mainstream Shiaa. There are many cross-marriages between
Sunni and Shiite and I personally would have no problem in the future getting my girl
married to Shiaa. Sunni and Shiaa are two faces of the same coin with some technical difference. If we want our society to advance, we should stop highlighting differences and focus on what unites us together.

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July 16th, 2011, 7:40 pm


306. Aliccie said:

@ tara
well, at least you’re are always so nice and see things in a positive way. Like Catholics and protestants, two sides of that coin, if only this terrible ‘uprising’ today could realize that life is important, and not being a ‘martyr’ to a god is more important. But that’s not the only thing, of course, we know that so much else is involved, and I can only hope, (because I don’t pray), that Syria as all countries will finally get to really feel what freedom is, to walk, to talk, to do, what they wish, without religious or security agents forbidding them !

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July 16th, 2011, 8:17 pm


307. why-discuss said:


You are always right, all the way, no use to argue, I knew that from your first message, you are a walking, I would rather say crawling encyclopedia.

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July 16th, 2011, 9:22 pm


308. why-discuss said:

Democracy in steep decline around the world

…But the Arab Spring is, in many ways, a mirage. Several nations in the region may eventually make the transition to democracy – this is hardly assured – but in reality, democracy is faltering throughout the developing world, from Asia to Latin America, from Africa to the former Soviet states.

In its annual survey, the monitoring group Freedom House, which uses a range of data to assess social, political and economic freedoms, found that global freedom plummeted for the fifth year in a row in 2010, the longest continuous decline in nearly 40 years. In fact, there are now fewer elected democracies than there were in 1995…

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July 16th, 2011, 10:06 pm


309. Tara said:

Authoratarian nostalgia? Sounds weird!

The next step would be more fundementalism.

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July 16th, 2011, 10:16 pm


310. why-discuss said:

Egypt Military Moves to Cement a Muscular Role in Government
Is this to prevent the take over by the MB or just to keep the military empire created during Mobarak?

The military council governing Egypt is moving to lay down ground rules for a new constitution that would protect and potentially expand its own authority indefinitely, possibly circumscribing the power of future elected officials. ….

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July 16th, 2011, 10:21 pm


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