Taysir Raddawi of Planning Commission: Interview with Jihad Yaziji

Taysir Raddawi replaced Abdullah Dardari as the head of the State Planning Commission last year. Jihad Yaziji of the Syria Report interviewed him and has kindly allowed me to rip off the interview. (Subscribe to Syria Report: unsolicited advertisement) Syria Comment has been debating whether the positive IMF economic report is accurate and how high unemployment in Syria is. Raddawi answers these question with some straight talk. The IMF report was too positive and unemployment is much higher than the 10% reported by the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics, he says.

Syria still far from social market economy – Raddawi
25 June 2007

Syria is still far from its target of a social market economy, says Taysir Raddawi, the head of the State Planning Commission. 

The Syrian Government says it wants to have a social market economy. How realistic is that? 
As such, the idea of a social market economy is excellent. Having a strong and dynamic market economy coupled with social justice and redistribution is the ideal solution. However, in order to redistribute wealth, you need first to have…wealth, i.e. economic surpluses. Syria is very far from reaching that stage. So I don’t really think we can talk of Syria being, yet, anywhere close to a social market economy. We now need significant growth, an efficient regulatory framework for business, less intervention from the State. 
However, the IMF has just released a preliminary report on the status of the Syrian economy, which is very positive. 
Indeed, it is very positive, maybe too much. There is no doubt that there has been economic growth last year and that the situation is improving. However, I doubt that the levels of GDP growth mentioned by our official statistics and by the IMF are as high as reported. Unfortunately, our statistical tools are very poor, as the IMF rightly pointed out, and it is really difficult to give an accurate estimate. However, my feeling from the activity on the ground is that growth is not as high as reported by the Central Bureau of Statistics. 
What do you say then of the falling inflation and unemployment rates? 
It all has to do with how you calculate and what standards you use. According to the International Labour Organization standards, which count as unemployed only the persons that have worked less than one hour a week, unemployment is at 10 percent or lower. But if you were to consider that any person working for less than 2 days a week is unemployed, then the rate easily shoots up to twice that level.  
The reform of the public sector remains an important issue in Syria. What directions should this reform take in your view? 
My only red line is that we cannot layoff anyone. Unemployment in the country is so high that you cannot afford to have more people without job. Apart from that I have no ideological precondition. There are too many companies that bring no added value and that are of no strategic value for the State. So, in my view, there are two main options for the reform of the public sector: Companies that are of a strategic nature or that generate profits must remain in the hands of the State. Companies that are losing and representing a drain on public finances as well as non strategic firms should be sold, partly, to their employees and to private capital. 
Another key issue is that of public finances and subsidies. What are the options for Syria? 
Subsidies are costing a lot to the state and distort economic activity. So at one time they will need to be scrapped. However, this process can only be gradual and after we make sure we have a good social safety net. The World Bank has recently prepared a report suggesting that we increase the price at which we sell diesel, which is the most expensive subsidized item, by 150 percent (it currently sells at SYP 7.30 a litre) and that in compensation we pay every Syrian citizen an annual amount of SYP 1 700.00. That’s an option we are working on at the moment. 
What is the path to growth for the Syrian economy then?We need  a strong and efficient market economy. We also have to support small and medium enterprises, in particular those that create a lot of jobs and bring significant technological added value. We can also think of setting-up Special Economic Zones, such as those in China, which were extremely successful.

Comments (58)

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51. Akbar Palace said:

Truthquest said,

Thank you for your response. What I was aiming from my question is find out who has more attachment to the land. It is very obvious to me from your answer that Palestinians have more attachment since they are willing blow themselves up and not leave when defeated. Humans used different way to defend their places and their existence from invaders and occupiers.

I wasn’t sure what you were “aiming” for with your previous question.

Now that you have clarified your question, (i.e. “who has more attachment to the land”), I would be glad to respond.

I’ve heard the usual statements that Israelis love life and jihadist Muslims love death etc, etc, including statements about Palestinians being “more attached to the land”.

All I can say in response to all of this is that both the Palestinians and the Jews are very attached to the land, and neither will walk away from it. I find it useless and even silly to try and quantify who is more “attached to the land”. You, of course, are free to believe in whatever you wish.

And “since they are willing blow themselves up”, why doesn’t Haniyeh blow himself up? Or Abbas or Nasrallah or bin Laden (who are in hiding for some strange reason) or every Palestinian over the age of 75?

Those that blow themselves up (9-11, Britain, etc) as far as I’m concerned, are usually the most brainwashed. Not like you guys here;)

I have one more questions to you: How long this state of affairs between Arab, Palestinians and Jews will last, how do you read the future in the area?

As I’ve stated many times before, I am optimistic. Already we have Palestinians and Israeli meeting together on and off for the past 15 years. The world is modernizing. The Arab world is coming around, learning, interacting on the internet, and coming to the realization that it is possible to live with Jews and Christians and still live as Muslims. There is nothing to fear.

do you see any way out?

Time. Continued pressure on those countries that still employ terrorism and threaten other countries.

If things do not go as the Jewish state hope what their other strategy, what do expect to evolve in the next 25 years?

The Jewish state has already met and exceeded any Jew’s expectations. I expect Israeli Arabs to participate more in Israeli society and set an example for co-existence like they are now.

Would you be interested in a good investment? If so, I would be happy to sell you some Israel Bonds;)


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July 6th, 2007, 4:45 pm


52. why-discuss said:

Akbar said: The Jewish state has already met and exceeded any Jew’s expectations
The country is plagued with sexual scandals at the highest level of its politicians, general insatisfaction with the continuous state of wars and the recent defeat, worried about the demographic future of the Jewish people, still relying on the generous subsidies of the US, having 10,000 palestinians in jail, decried by all Human Rights groups for abuse in the Occupied territories, dismissive of multiple UN Security Resolutions asking for withdrawal etc… If I was a Jew, I would have expected much more from a people who in the history showed high moral standards, high education standards, and has produced the most brilliant intellectual, scientific and artistic personnalities… Not anymore. I would be very disapointed by the outcome of this promising Jewish state.

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July 6th, 2007, 6:16 pm


53. Akbar Palace said:

Why-Discuss said:

If I was a Jew, I would have expected much more from a people who in the history showed high moral standards, high education standards, and has produced the most brilliant intellectual, scientific and artistic personnalities… Not anymore.

Maybe that’s why you are not a Jew.

Jews continue to show high moral standards, high education standards, and also still produce the most brilliant intellectual, scientific and artistic personalities.

But you have to remember, Jews are human just like you and me, and believe it or not, they aren’t as perfect as, say, the Arabs are;)

Especially the highly moral Islamic jihadist murderers.



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July 6th, 2007, 10:52 pm


54. why-discuss said:

Akbar: Wikipedia: “Israeli science is particularly well known for its military technology, from simple submachine guns like the Uzi, ranging to advanced anti-ballistic defense systems”

That shows were the jewish creativity is focusing on…How sad, where are the jewish artists, philosophers, writers, musicians? They are all in the USA, I guess, where they can mix and get inpirations in contacts with other religions and cultures without being on the defensive.. A Jewish state as well as an Islamic state can only be claustrophobic.

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July 7th, 2007, 6:56 am


55. Akbar Palace said:

Why-Discuss said,

…where are the jewish artists, philosophers, writers, musicians?

Right in front of your eyes. Just open them.




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Israel (are you kidding?)


Where are the Arab anti-jihadists?

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July 7th, 2007, 8:45 pm


56. Akbar Palace said:

If the Saudis can learn (after 20 years), I guess anyone can…

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz to Saudi Preachers: Saudis Who Go to Iraq Are Used for Suicide Bombings

The Saudis are brought [to Iraq] in order to carry out bombings. Either they strap on explosives belts and blow up in public places, or else they drive a car, crash into some place, and blow it up. Who are the ones who die? Are they senior officials? Are they soldiers in any army? No. The ones who die are innocent men, women, and children. Would you be pleased if your sons became tools of murder? This is the reality. Moreover, those who escape being killed come back here with deviant ideas, and they try to implement them in our society. Hence, security activity is insufficient if it is not accompanied by ideological activity. This is a virus in the body of this nation, and if we do not kill this virus, if we do not reach, diagnose, and kill it – it will remain. The men of the security agencies amputate a decaying organ in this body, but who should fight this deviant ideology, if not clerics and sheiks like you? I refer especially to the preachers and imams of the mosques.


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July 8th, 2007, 2:23 am


57. SimoHurtta said:

Akbar will there be in future Israeli intellectuals when a third of the Jewish youth attend to Haredi schools? Will the proportion of “Taleban Jews” grow?


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July 8th, 2007, 1:06 pm


58. Akbar Palace said:


When the Jewish Haredi begin to fly airplanes into skyscrapers and cars into airports, then I’d be concerned.

Meantime, I’d rather discuss actual problems, not your warped imagination about “Taleban Jews”.

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July 10th, 2007, 5:42 am


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