“What Does the Future Hold for Syrian Economists?” By Samir Aita

What Does the Future Hold for Syrian Economists?
By Samir Aita
For Syria Comment
13 January 2011

Dear Josh,

You have published a post on the Syrian economy entitled “What does the future hold for Syria?” by George Saghir. I think it should be answered with the following comments:

Syrian and UN statistics have shown that the Syrian population growth rate has been decreasing steadily since the 1990s. Of course, we still need to wait until the next census (in 2014) to have a precise figure, but everybody agrees on the following facts:

o   All estimates (official, UNDP, IMF) put the present population growth rate somewhere between 2.0 and 2.4% (in 2007), decreasing continuously since the 1980s; and UNPP estimates that it will fall to an average of 1.69% for the period 2010-2015;

o   An average growth rate of population in the period 2005-2010 has been put by the UNDP at 3.6%; but this is due to the sudden rise of population in 2006-2007 as Syria experienced the arrival of around 1.5 million Iraqis, which is an exceptional phenomenon;

So making an analysis on the basis of a comparison between this 3.6% figure, as if it were the actual figure of population growth, and the 1.24% in Turkey is erroneous by any means; and talking about family planning and making other cultural assessments on false basis looks like the discourse talking about Arabs who are “underdeveloped and making a lot of children”.

Beside this major error in the reasoning, the demographic issue could be better tackled addressing the facts as they are:

o   Syria is experiencing today the arrival to the labor market of the young generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. During that period, population growth rates were as high as 3.5% yearly (and this was the case of many developing countries). The major issue for policies is how to find jobs for this “wave” of youth, now and not in 20 years. The number of jobs created every year is much lower than what is necessary: only around 100,000 are created while 300,000 are needed at constant participation rate and keeping the high unemployment rate stable (in some Syrian regions this ratio of job creation to needs is much lower).

o   The employment issue is aggravated today by the acceleration of rural-urban migration, especially following the drought and, more importantly, due to the lack of development policies in some regions such as the Jazira, Ghab, or East Idleb. This means that the need for job creation in urban areas is even higher, as jobs are constantly lost in rural areas.

o   Many of the 1.5 million Iraqis who came to Syria in 2006-2007 (around 7% of the total population!) are now residing in the country and have de facto entered the labor force. A large number is working in the informal sector, which already accounts for 1/3 of the total working population. Syria should be proud that it is a haven to all Arabs in times of difficulty, but the government policies (and the analysis of economists) should address this issue as a fact, seeking solutions.

Unemployment and Economic Growth

Here also, the analysis presented does not address the major issue: that the unemployment rates stated in statistics, although high, still hide a significant part of the reality. In fact, the Syrian labor force (the total of those who want to work) has almost stagnated in Syria since 2000, despite the population growth and the youth wave. Not only is the participation of women in the labor force low in Syria, but it has declined significantly! This is mostly due to the acceleration of rural-urban migration. Women who lose their work in agriculture cannot even seek work in the informal suburbs where they now reside. The same phenomenon has been observed in most of the Arab Mediterranean countries, including Egypt.

Also, it is not clear how the statistics account for the Syrians actually working, with different degrees of seasonality, in Lebanon and Jordan. Their number is significant, at around 7% of the total labor force. They are probably considered as working in Syrian statistics, while they work and gain their revenues abroad. Additionally, not only is the unemployment rate the highest amongst youth, but it is even higher for the educated youth, who tend in large part to migrate abroad. Finally, official Syrian statistics clearly show that most of the new jobs are created in the informal sector.

The demographic/employment reasoning made by Saghir is thus erroneous and simplistic. This applies in particular to the analysis on the relation between the growth rate of the economy and unemployment. In fact, there is no automatic relation between the two, as many countries have relatively high growth rates, high (two digit) unemployment rates and a large informal sector. It all depends on how “socially friendly” the economic growth is, in what economic sectors it is developing, and on how this growth is distributed between the different categories of the population and the different regions of a country, etc.

All Arab Mediterranean countries (non-oil dominated), including Tunisia and Egypt, have experienced in the last decade the same characteristics: moderate economic growth around 5% in real terms, high unemployment, especially amongst youth and the educated, and most job creation in the informal sector. Growth was mostly in rent-seeking activities: real-estate, monopolies (now mostly private), etc. All these countries have considered their youth, and especially their educated youth, as a liability and not an asset. All wanted to emulate the “Dubai model” of a free trade and real-estate zone using foreign workers, forgetting that they have a population that needs jobs and for whom the growth should be directed.  Look what has happened to them.

Emulate Turkey and not Egypt

Of course, one dreams of a better development scheme for Syria. But in many aspects, the way economic reforms have recently been implemented in Syria is based more on the model of Dubai and Egypt than on that of Turkey. This requires a long discussion.

But what is striking is precisely what the paper/post had chosen as the two major issues: that what is important is increasing the growth rate and reducing the population growth rate – and only these two. Does the author know that consecutive Egyptian governments have used precisely these two major issues as their only driving arguments and slogans for more than two decades? Using them to advise the Syrian authorities on what is to be done, to follow the Turkish model and not the Egyptian, means that the author of the paper/post wants – consciously or not – that Syria follows the fate of Egypt.  Astonishing!

By the way, UNDP estimates the average population growth rate for Syria and Turkey for the period 2010-2015 at 1.69% and 1.1% respectively. Of course, Syria will get a lower ratio with the rise of education and standard of living. But does the author know that the areas and regions which still experience high population growth still lack many basic services, such as clean water, sewage systems, health, education, etc.? Concentrating on family planning in such deprived regions is surreal. Major services must be provided to Syria’s poorest populations before the state concentrates on family planning.

A word on subsidies

The paper/post focuses its criticism on “subsidies” and on “the culture of dependence” amongst Syrians, while stating that the people spend 50% of their revenues on food, and that the government spends US$8 billion on subsidies as a result of its “socialist strategy”.  This is really too much: this figure of 8 billion is equivalent to half of the total Syrian government budget! I know that some government officials had advanced the figure of US$7 billion, but this is rhetoric, as even the IMF Article IV report puts the figure between US$1 and US$2 billion, including the cost of the recent measures to help the poorest categories of the population.

One wonders why the paper/post focuses on “subsidies” after the recent rise in oil derivative prices in Syria, and the liberalization of the market for many to agricultural and industrial inputs. That’s really strange when the consumer prices of oil derivatives are now almost the same as in neighboring countries, and while half these consumer prices in these countries consist of taxes!!!

The author of the paper/post should know that this focus on “subsidies” has been also a major rhetoric of the Egyptian government for decades (along with that of the burden of population), and that the angry crowds in Cairo are also answering it today by asking for the indexation of salaries on inflation, and for the dismantling of the private monopolies which have created lucrative “rent-seeking” businesses costing a lot to society. The optimization of financial resources is more complex than the simplistic rhetoric of the author of the paper/post, and that of some Syrian government officials who still insist on pushing Syria to follow the fate of Egypt.

Such neo-liberal types of rhetoric really don’t want to tackle the real issues of the economy and the society. A more in-depth analysis could try to answer some questions like: isn’t it a subsidy when a government licenses an energy- and water-intensive industry in the region of Damascus, while it still has to provide these resources at a high cost? Isn’t it a creation of a “rent” when the government suddenly raises the minimum capital requirement for private banks by eight fold, forcing the banks to focus on the speculative (real-estate, etc) sectors and closing the door to competition (by the way, the minimum capital requirement for a bank is much lower in Turkey than in Syria)?

What to think, also, about the other rhetoric of the “culture of dependence”? How many in Syria really depend on the government? Those in the public sector who need a second job in the day to make their living? The third of the working population in the informal sector? Or the other third working in the formal private sector, mostly without employment contracts, social security, or retirement schemes?  Or maybe the unemployed who have no unemployment compensation scheme? Or the elderly (above 65) who still have to work or depend on their families, as very few of them have decent retirement schemes, and guess how the purchasing power of these retirements had evolved in the last 10 years? Or maybe the youth where unemployment is the highest? And what about public hospitals, which used to be free of charge for all and are now asked to generate a major part of their revenues from their patients?

This rhetoric on the “culture of dependence” is often used by those neo-liberals to characterize the fact that many register to get a job in the public sector. Is it “dependence” when this is the only sector with proper employment offices? Is it “dependence” when women mostly seek work in the public sector precisely because of what they can get there: a formal contract, a minimum wage, an advancement scheme, health insurance, retirement benefits, maternity leave, and a minimum level of dignity even when the salaries are low? Is it “dependence” when most of employers do not respect labor laws and regulations, and the government does not enforce them? Take a guess what the share of “self-employment” and informal employment is in the formal private sector?

What happened and is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and elsewhere in the Arab world shows that caring about people’s incomes and living conditions can’t be treated lightly with such rhetoric.

Conclusion

Those interested in more serious analysis are invited to read the papers and discussions of the Syrian economists of the Syrian Economic Sciences Association (published in www.syrianeconomy.org), knowing that this association groups all schools of thoughts in economy. They are also invited to read the excellent assessment made by the National Prospective Report for Syria in 2025, especially on population and regional development, as well as the population reports of the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs.

Frankly speaking, even the discussions inside the present Syrian government (Central Bureau of Statistics, Regional Planning authority, State Planning Commission, Deputy Prime Ministry for Economic Affairs, etc.) are more linked to reality than the article you have published, despite the rhetoric of some officials and their advisers, and despite the absence of action or will.

Finally, I really don’t see what favor you are doing Syria by publishing such articles that have not been fact checked and reviewed by peers. Particularly these days, when revolutions are breaking out. I don’t know George Saghir, who is a specialist in financial derivatives (subprimes… etc)[1] but I did notice that he is now in charge of publishing a “reliable” monthly indicator for Syria.

In this context, what does the future hold for Syrian “economists”… And for the Syrian economy?

* Samir AITA is member of the Syrian Economic Sciences Association and President of the Cercle des Economistes Arabes


[1] see http://syriapmi.com/index.php?p=about-george-saghir&lang=en

Comments (48)


1. Jihad said:

This is an excellent rebuttal of analysis and recepies that were proved to be a failure. It seems that one of the Lebanese banks, that have ruined the Lebanese economy, is behind the so-called Syrian indicator. These banks have benefited from destructive speculative practices and massed huge amounts of money from the accumulating Lebanese public debt that surpassed the 50 billion US. And what they have to show for the average Lebanese who want to invest in this or that? Nothing. And with the excessive rise of property prices, the Lebanese banks are once again acting like predators. One cannot find affordable housing in Beirut and the surrounding areas. After pushing people out of the downtown area, they are making them flee the capital in droves. The building projects now under way in Damascus and Amman will do the same. Better for our Syrian brothers to wake up before it is too late.

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February 15th, 2011, 11:34 am

 

2. George Ajjan said:

Mr. Aita,

Your post provides a good rebuttal, but frankly your argument should be able to stand on its own merit, without including cheap-shots taken at opposing points of view. Linking George Saghir with the word “subprime” and suggesting he lacks the credentials to provide an analysis to a blog is one step above asking him when he stopped beating his wife.

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February 15th, 2011, 11:53 am

 

3. jad said:

Mr. Aita,
Excellent post!! Thank you.
I have couple questions for you:

-How influential do you think the National Prospective Report for Syria in 2025 was on the Syrian government?
-How could a one colour team of neo-liberal officials in the Syrian government working on the economy and having the upper hand on Syria economy can tackle the challenges you described in your post ?

I’m asking those questions because from what I read and know, the excellent report of Syria 2025 give a clear vision of where Syria is going and what needed to be done on all levels is almost dismissed by the government’s neo-liberals and their plans doesn’t even recognize it as part of it’s strategy.
In my opinion, unless concrete plans for solutions and not the usual empty promises are discussed I doubt that any progress can happen, it looks like a loose battle, we are heading full speed toward Egypt’s economy model when no other voices are heard inside the governments team of Mr. Dardari and no real plan of dealing with the problems are openly discussed with the Syrians regarding their future.

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February 15th, 2011, 11:58 am

 

4. WHY said:

I read the post twice and haven’t seen one argument on how to solve the major economic problems facing Syria. The author mentions rhetoric but all I sensed was the same socialist mumbo jumbo rhetoric and defense of the public sector that was prevalent during Hafez Al Assad’s era. It’s the main reason why the culture of corruption existed in the first place.

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February 15th, 2011, 12:15 pm

 

5. Ford Prefect said:

Dear Mr. Aita,

Thank you for your article and I appreciate the insights. While I highly respect your opinion of which I happened to disagree with its conclusion; I wonder, to use your own words, “what favor” are you doing all of us by going after George Saghir, the person, and not the content of his post?

You undermine your arguments by resorting to ignorant innuendos such as he is a specialist in “…financial derivatives (subprimes… etc)”. Checking the link referenced in your post, the reader will find that Mr. Saghir worked on financial derivatives in a post he held back in 1991! If you had followed your own advice and checked your facts before publishing them, you would have avoided such dated and ignorant association.

Furthermore, the link you provided on Mr. Saghir did not include the word “subprime”. If you are indicating that “subprimes” and “financial derivatives” are synonymous, I would highly recommend a refresher course in Finance – maybe such a mistake can be avoided in your future articles.

Let’s enjoy a healthy debate on the content and the validity of the “fact” and numbers. Avoid linking personalities to deformed regions of your imagination.

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February 15th, 2011, 12:58 pm

 

6. Alex said:

Samir,

I was enjoying reading your rebuttal post, and it is a post, not a peer refereed jounal research paper.

Then I reached your “subprime” cheap shot which you followed by advertising your site and by trying to discredit George and to imply he is not qualified to work on the SyriaPMI index (with Bank Audi).

Since your motivation seems to be to promote yourself so vividly and to discredit others who you see as competition to you and to your obvious aspirations, I can only tell you that it was depressing to experience your otherwise worthwhile post. It is so sad that people like you as so easy to spot among highly qualified Syrian individuals who are playing significant roles reforming the country.

I’ll leave the conflicting population fertility and growth rates for you and George to debate, and you can argue with him about the wisdom of writing a focused post on a blog rather than going into the details like you did. But you probably know that this is beyond economics … you can always find thousands of Ph.D. students researching more details and you can wait until they are done so that you can incorporate the results of their research into your big model/simulation, or you can at some point decide to take decision on the most fundamental factors and variables that affect your output variable that you would like to optimize. Ronald Reagan and Lee Iacocca were followers of the 80/20 rule … take a decision when you have the 80% of the necessary information.

People like you automatically try their best to destroy anything that might promote their peers.

Lack of maturity at your age is not impressive.

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February 15th, 2011, 1:18 pm

 

7. norman said:

Two observatios,
One, many people here like and trust MR Saghir,

Two, Syria needs good reliable department of statistics to be able to plan.

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February 15th, 2011, 2:04 pm

 

8. s. farah said:

Dear Mr. Aita, i think i speak for all of the readers of SC, by saying that we are very disturbed that you have resorted to personal attacks to further your argument. Your post is a personal attack on George’s credentials and puts into question the reliability of his SPMI..

There is nothing wrong in disagreeing with George’s views and or his prescription for the Syrian economy…As a matter of fact it is a welcome exchange of ideas especially about issues as complicated as an emerging economy..

But resorting to an attack such as this on george and his credibility is unacceptable..and makes us suspecious of your motives.

Y

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February 15th, 2011, 2:20 pm

 

9. norman said:

Hey everybody, I admit, i made a mistake,
All here do not like George, They love George,

chill out everybody . Samir probably did not mean any disrespect, he just chose the wrong words as we all foreigners do!!!.sometime , except I .LOL

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February 15th, 2011, 2:37 pm

 

10. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

LOL.., arguing about a country economy that its total annual industrial output (in Dollars) is less than half of Hershey Chocolate Company. Its future is as bleak as the Black hole. Nice to meet all the distinguished theoreticians and Academia here. They have in America few thousand indexes that the world uses as well, guess what, it did nothing to save their impending financial and economic collapse.

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February 15th, 2011, 3:17 pm

 

11. Alex said:

Norman,

What is upsetting is not Samir’s specific example, but that it reinforces what I have been observing elsewhere … Highly qualified and educated Syrians react just like a jealous first-born who cannot live with the fact his/her parents have another child now and the new child is cuter for now.

They want every reform to be credited to them … they want to be stars … and they will do anything they can to stop others from succeeding.

It is a serious disadvantage that for some reason our “experts” are highly narcissistic. In the west you learn to be a team player. In Syria … you open your own store and you are the store owner and you compete with other store owners …

I can think of some government officials who fit this store-owner character.

I am “a store owner” in real life, by the way :) … but I hope I don’t act like one.

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February 15th, 2011, 3:37 pm

 

12. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

That is not academic jealousy; more like a Syrian Chief trait. It took 200 years of modernization, ending in a nuclear war, for Japanese culture to move away from Shogun mentality, where every family has own crest and flag. To this day, in many ways, still manifest itself in Japanese culture but moved somehow from clan into Corporate Structure. But you still see it exhibited in today Japanese culture on many levels, especially academic.

In Syria same cultural traits still exist strongly, and you will not change it in few decades, it will take few centuries, specially lacking Corporate Culture. This was even reinforced by the Baathist State, where the Planned State /One Party is the sole provider (the big Daddy) that everyone must compete for his attention for that one in a life time, very limited available opportunity. The trait exists in Lebanon as well, that is why they name buildings not as Bright Star Tower but Al-Ahdab and Kabbarah building.

Since the founding of SNP back in 81’ it splits numerous times into splinters groups, some as little as 5 members. The culprit has been always that “Chief Trait”. In 2001’ it was reconstructed with this particular trait in Syro-Lebanese character in mind, that all are Chiefs and no Indians. Everyone is Chief of a task, work as 4 subgroups, each has variances and even own insignias, but all unite under one umbrella called SNP. No formal Organization and no President of party or Committee, not even a spokesman. Once that Chieftain element introduced, the conflicts and splits starts, and you may call it Jealousy, but it is really more culturally related than psychological. The whole 287 members of 4 groups are the committee, all Chiefs and no Indians. This worked very well. It lasted now 11 years and only lost few members for old age, passing away.

The Baath party channeled this somehow inherit Social defect and diverted it to Arabism and used Conflicts to unite and distract. Unfortunately, once you place a Syrian or to lesser extent Lebanese in a free will situation, it tend to drift quickly back to the same behavioral trait. As I said, it is going to take Centuries to get rid of this Social flaw. It took Jewish Rabbi’s some serious effort and centuries to get the Jews to think away from tribalism and into national goals, that and some very awful events as well.

The best way to deal with it is to recognize it and manipulate it to accomplish a positive goal. You will be surprised that, in a way, it does have own advantages, being all Chiefs did give the people higher experience, knowledge and confidence level. There are plenty of Indians in the world you can use, many of them even hold King and President titles, that is why we are in a mess. The world needs some really good, genuine quality Chiefs.

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February 15th, 2011, 5:55 pm

 

13. Ford Prefect said:

SNP,
Forget about buildings named after someone. We have whole countries that are named after a person. It’s a paranormal endemic.

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February 15th, 2011, 6:43 pm

 

14. Off the Wall said:

Folks, hold your guns. What we are reading is a serious intellectual and factual debate and is a real battle of two schools of development and should be considered within the prism of anger felt among economists, worldwide, at the “finance-growth” based economic development frenzy. I would first like to thank Mr. Aita for his link, which allowed me to view his stellar presentation on Aljazira region. The presentation, although remains incomplete without the actual oral delivery, is an eye opener and is a must for anyone wanting to know where Mr. Aita is coming from and to all who want to see a real alternative to finance-growth based economies or to stagnant bygone era economy, or lack thereof.

Furthermore, I do not think that Mr. Aita is insulting Mr. Saghir and even discrediting “his index”. Although the PMI was never mentioned in Mr Aita’s review, and was not the subject of its content, alluding to it is not as horrible, at least in my opinion. To begin with, the Purchasing Manager Index was not devised by Mr. Saghir, nor has he or his partner claimed it to be, despite of the tremendous credit they both deserve for initiating its implementation in Syria. PMI is developed by the Supply Management Institute (Formerly Purchasing Managers Institute), and it is used worldwide as a “reliable” measure of the health of the manufacturing sector of the economy. The index power is in its simplicity (soft index), but it has proven, based on at least three research papers i have read today (ready to provide the papers to both sides through Joshua), to yield some details unavailable even from hard data commonly collected by government agencies, yet without the lagtime (delay) associated with these stats, so its reliability is primarily in the fact that it consistently measures what it is supposed to measure and in that it is very timely. However, its reliability, as highlighted in Mr. Saghir’s own press conference referring to the index potential for success, depends on the consistency of participation in the survey, sample size, and several other factors including the size of the manufacturing sector and its representativeness of the economic activities at national level. The Eurozone, for example, relies on an index that combines the PMI for manufacturing and service industries. Bearing in mind that in most cases, senior purchasing executives, who provides input to the index represent many sectors and enterprise sizes and that such diversity is also a factor one must consider in assessing the reliability. So, in my opinion, Mr. Aita was more than justified in using a quote mark with the word “reliability”, especially considring that the primary use of the index is not in setting economic and development policies, but mostly in investment and interest rate decisions by national banks. This is also what the Deputy Prime minister said in the same press conference when he told CEOs that foreign banks use the index to make investment decisions.

As for alluding to Mr. Saghir expertise, so what?, derivatives, swap markets and similar financial instruments do include subprime. The real arguments should not be lost, and there were plenty of them that are worthy of debate. Debating these issue will take some energy that I do not have now in my current lazy state. But I tend to agree with Mr. Aita on many conceptual points, especially having viewed his presentation.

Mr. Saghir’s side also uses antagonistic phrases. To any socially conscious economist, throwing the word “dependency on state”, without serious analysis of the shortcoming of the private sector is as a Randian insult as it can be. I am here reminded by several posts from Ehsani, who argued for innovation, improvements, and actual ethics in the private sector

So let us all breath a little. I would argue that Mr. Aita’s post is but a peer review, let us pretend that we are the journal editors and hope for a reply, and perhaps for a second review by someone like Ehsani. Welcome to academia :)

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February 15th, 2011, 8:18 pm

 

15. Off the Wall said:

I would like to add to the previous post that when subprime started it was an excellent idea to provide credit access to those historically excluded. The crises was not because of sub-prime, it was primarly because of the overinflated home prices, coupled with sub-prime and bundling good, risky, and very risky loans in one class A+ package to investors.

Dearest Jad
Belated reply,
Yes it was the WB in its recent re-incarnation who finally decided to include voicelessness.

It is also a wealth of literature coming from several groups in the UK, mostly geographers and anthropologists interested in socially conscious development. The name of the group escapes me.

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February 15th, 2011, 8:45 pm

 

16. Majhool said:

As always OFF THE WALL has the better argument.

I was really upset when I read Mr. George’s “Dependency on the state” Argument.

Mr/Mrs Farah,

Please speak for you self. Its kind of insulting to assume that the readers agree with you. Thanks!

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February 15th, 2011, 9:16 pm

 

17. Norman said:

So , what does Syria need to do to improve the economy and the standard of living for her people ,

Let us have some suggestions, and let us make to the point,
1)
2)
3)
ets, ets

All people are invited, Syrians and non Syrian, Simo, please jump in ,

please put priorities,

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February 15th, 2011, 10:18 pm

 

18. G.Saghir said:

What I would have loved to read in Mr. Aita’s note is a road map and a blue print for how Syria can achieve its objective of 7-8 percent economic growth. I was looking forward to a discussion on the role of the public sector and the merits (or not) of privatization. For the record, I am in the privatization camp. I was hoping that I would learn what Syria should do to attract the enormous amounts of foreign investments that its government has set as a top policy objective. Sadly, Mr. Aita decided to spend his energy refuting my population growth estimates and accusing me of being part of a discourse talking about Arabs who are “underdeveloped and making a lot of children”.

The population growth assumption:

In comment number 50 in my post, I reiterated to one of the readers the source and logic behind my data. The latest statistic from Damascus is sourced from end of 2009 data. My source is the UN’s population division. The tables can be accessed by visiting their population database which is under “the 2008 revision”. Readers are invited to do so themselves. Those who decide to do so will notice that the tables are listed in 5 year increments. The population growth rate for the 2005-2010 is clearly listed at 3.26%.

http://esa.un.org/unpp/p2k0data.asp

Mr. Aita explains that this number is due to the sudden rise of the population in 2006-2007 as Syrian experienced the arrival of around 1.5 million Iraqis. If Mr. Aita is correct in his hypothesis that Iraqi refugees are behind the 3.25% and that Syria has no population problem to worry about then great. Perhaps he should arrange for a meeting with the country’s health minister and assure you him of such since he said the following just a few days ago:

واعتبر الوزير تسارع النمو السكاني مشكلة كبيرة، وسيتم التعامل معها بجدية في هذه المرحلة، من خلال التعاون مع هيئة تنظيم الأسرة للعمل على تخفيض نسبة الولادات، مشيراً إلى أن هذه المشكلة لا تؤثر على القطاع الصحي فحسب بل على كافة القطاعات، ولذا فإن معالجتها لا تنحصر بوزارة الصحة بل هي قائمة على تعاون جميع الوزارات مع بعضها البعض، ولا يكفي تحديد النسل بل يجب نشر الثقافة والتوعية من خلال السلطات الدينية

The health minister is not alone of course. Various government officials including the Prime Minister himself have warned of high population growth rate over the past few years. Hopefully, they don’t also belong to my group of people who are accusing Arabs of being “underdeveloped and making a lot of children”.

Where Mr. Aita does agree with me is on the low participation rates for women. Not only does he repeat my point here but he goes a step further and informs us that:

“Not only is the participation of women in the labor force low in Syria, but it has declined significantly!”

It would have helped of course if he would have shared with us his reasoning of how the low and falling labor participation rates for women would be consistent with a falling population rates to 1.69%. I was under the impression that a population rate of as low as 1.69% for Syria would be consistent with much higher women labor participation rates especially that day-care help is not widespread in our society. This was again a missed opportunity for us to learn more from Mr. Aita.

Unemployment:

I have spent almost 20 years analyzing the relationship between economic growth and the performance of the labor market in the U.S. My note for Syria Comment was not a research paper on growth-employment dynamics. If he felt that my argument was too simplistic then he ought to know that this was precisely what the objective was. Of course, employment and growth are not automatically or perfectly correlated.

That a person with Mr. Aita intellect would say that I want “consciously or not – that Syria follows the fate of Egypt” is indeed astonishing as he himself phrased it.

We are told that consecutive Egyptian governments have tried to increase growth and reduce the population growth rate as their only slogans for “more than two decades”.

This is an inaccurate statement.

Egypt failed to grow its per capita nominal income for nearly two decades. The country’s average nominal GDP per capita was little changed at $2160 in 2009 compared with $2155 in 1989. The economic reforms did not start till 2004 when the former President was finally convinced that he needs to do something to increase growth. Thanks to corruption and cronyism these reforms never trickled down and the simplistic per capita nominal income does a fine job at explaining why Egypt has struggled of late.

Subsidies:

Mr. Aita and the IMF article IV seem to know more about the extent of the subsidies in Syria than the government itself. I do stand by my $8 billion number.

Politically speaking, reducing the subsidies in this environment is not going to be easy as I alluded to in my post. This does not make the subsidies a sound government policy. Subsidies distort the price signals that allocate resources efficiently in an economy. This is a fact. As for the public sector, Mr. Aita defends the sector and the people who decide to seek employment in it. Indeed, Syrians are rationale individuals. The public sector is a magnet for those in the labor force. Government jobs come with a formal contract, health insurance, retirement benefits, maternity leave, “and a minimum level of dignity even when the salaries are low”. It is of course also a job for life so it comes with tremendous security that the private sector will not match. While no one disputes the above, this is hardly a rationale or an endorsement of the sector as a viable economic model.

My “dependency on the state” comment:

The readers seem to have responded negatively when I inferred that the Syrian public has grown dependent on the state. This is fair. Perhaps a better way to have phrased my idea was to say that the state has made the public dependent on it. Most government programs are easier to get into than getting out of. Subsidies and publicly owned enterprises are no exceptions. The Syrian state spends an enormous amount of subsidies on basic commodities and especially energy products. The public criticizes the government for the lack of services ignoring the cost of subsidies and state employment costs. Were the state to have the hindsight of 20/20, there is very little probability that it would have designed such a subsidy system in the first place. I strongly believe that it would not have chosen to be in the business of running so many businesses either. Regrettably, it did.

Having checked my name following the posting of my note, Mr. Aita came across the realization that I was “a specialist in financial derivatives”. That discovery seems to have raised his concerns about the fate of our beloved country that has “charged” a person like me with publishing a “reliable” indicator. Mr. Aita should take comfort from the fact that The Syrian government is not directly or indirectly involved in this project. Both Banque Audi and I were not charged by anyone with carrying out this project. This was originally my idea. I brought it to Mr. Hamwi of Banque Audi and asked whether he would be interested in forming a partnership. Mr. Hamwi consulted with his team and agreed to do so. Both parties get no monetary benefits from this.

More on the Syrian PMI:

The PMI stands for the Purchasing Managers Index. I have been following this economic indicator since the mid 1980’s. It is widely monitored by both policy makers and global investors. Over the past few years, the index was developed for an increasing list of economies thanks to its simplicity and timeliness. Over time, the index does an excellent job at tracking a country’s GDP. More specifically, it helps indicate whether business conditions in a country are improving, decelerating or staying the same this month versus last month.

Like many developing countries, Syria suffers from the lack of timely data. Following a personal meeting with the chief Executive of Banque Audi –Syria during one of my visits to the country, a discussion took place about the merits of looking into whether such an initiative can take place in Syria. After a few months of discussions, we decided to undertake such an endeavor. Those in charge of calculating the index in the U.S, Saudi and the UAE were contacted. The formulas and methodologies were checked and agreed upon. The success of the index will be based on the response rate from Syrian businesses. This was explained during a meeting with key business owners back in December. Senior members of the Syrian government were notified and were present during the launch. It is important to reiterate that this is a private undertaking. The Syrian government has not “charged” anyone to carry out this effort. Government officials have made it clear that they will support and encourage similar private initiatives and that the presence of Mr. Dardari at the launch was not an exclusive endorsement of this project at the expense of other similar future endeavors. The role of the Syrian government, and especially the office of Mr. Dardari, was exemplary. They supported the project but at an arm’s length. Lastly, it is worth noting that Saghir Advisory Services was recently created just to carry out this none-for-profit initiative. More details especially under the frequently asked questions (About Us tab) can be found by visiting the website on:

http://syriapmi.com/index.php?lang=en

The U.S. Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) has recently been renamed the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) report on business:

http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/content.cfm?ItemNumber=10743&navItemNumber=12944

The Syria PMI is modeled on the US version and will use the same exact methodology.

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February 15th, 2011, 10:35 pm

 

19. Norman said:

MR Saghir,

If the Syrian government moves from subsidies for products to subsidies for the needy , how can the Syrian government evaluate the needy families when most people do not have a paper trail on assets,and how can they avoid needy families selling their shares of he subsidies ,

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February 15th, 2011, 11:18 pm

 

20. Majhool said:

A must see

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February 16th, 2011, 1:36 am

 

21. Shami said:

asadian hypocrisy reached its peak:

Ila mazbalet el tarikh !

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February 16th, 2011, 2:47 am

 

22. Off the Wall said:

Mr. Saghir
Again, I do not know if my congratulation was clear. I believe that PMI implementation in Syria is a good step and innovative idea, and it may prove, at the end, to be one among the critical components of attracting investment into a sector (money makes gadgets -> gadgets make value -> value makes money) I would definitely prefer over real-estate investments (money makes money), provided that the index show more expansion than contraction. So to both you and Mr. Hamwi, congratulations.

In the meantimes, I would urge care with seasonal adjustments (from purely statistical point of view). If your industry report includes seasonally adjusted PMI, it may be a good idea to also publish the un-adjusted values for those who request them. Granted that may provide two different sets of data, but you can design the liability and use agreement accordingly. Ideally, the actual summaries of responses would be of great interest to academics. I sure hope that the SPMI report would also include both sectoral and aggregate (economy-wide values). I would imagine that some innovative young Syrians would be capable of utilizing not only sectoral, but also individual index sub-components to identify market niche for some emerging services.

BTW, to my understanding, the Germans use 7 components instead of 5. To no one’s surprise, the first of which is performance.

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February 16th, 2011, 4:57 am

 

23. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

Did someone here said Bashar asked for wish list 1-5 to be submitted?

Here is ours, bit more than 5 wishes, titled
“ECONOMY 101 FOR SNP DUMMIES”.

#1- ESTABLISH IBC LAW (selfishly marked this priority #1)
Corporate ownership, no resident directors, Bearer Shares, easy anonymous registration with internet banking and wire transfers/ATM, no capital investment minimum or maximum. Possibility of domestic operation with additional license.

Number these essential priorities the way you like it, because doubtful any will ever be implemented.

REMOVE STATE EMERGENCY LAWS
Replace it with modern day National Security, sedition, treason and civic duties Laws that will have effects on the violator only, not entire population at once.

ESTABLISH POLITICAL PARTY LAW
Bashar can keep 51% for Baath Party vote (better than Civil War). Remove the Front set up and allow for all newly established Political parties to run for the 49% of seats, thru fair and clean elections.

REMOVE ALL CONTROLS ON CIVIC NGO
Government has no business in regulating those. They should be self-regulating by their own Bylaws or Charter, as well as own committee elections.

ESTABLISH COMPENSATION BOARD ( A MUST)
To compensate Syrians whose property unlawfully were ceased, Nationalized or expropriated by previous regimes. Having enforcement arm as well.

ESTABLISH FAIR AND JUST COURT AND LEGAL SYSTEM
Small claim courts and small complaint with comparable small fees and no Lawyer present for all small disputes, having as well a court subpoena and interrogatory powers for defendant and Plaintiff.

SET UP CIVIC CENTER IN EACH TOWN
NGO’s and Government offices can be located to help people in all issues of business, family and social welfare, youth training etc. As well as a Complaints and Corruption tip office with online support.

ESTABLISH MODERN NATIONAL SECURITY AND ESPIONAGE LAWS
Get the Mukhabarat out of the petty business. Off people back and Out of streets and into offices and field training, tracking real state enemies and keep up with high tech espionage. Use Intelligence to get business opportunity for Syria and track corruption. Pay them a bit more for the extra professionalism.

REMOVE ALL BUSINESS CONTROL
One form/1 page filing of DBA, Fictitious Name registration, simple 1-3 pages Corporate Articles. Small incorporation fees and no limitation on min. capital or min/max/class of solicited investors.

ESTABLISH STRICT BANK SECRECY LAWS
Named and Numbered acct. No reporting or cooperation with any other local or foreign entity or nation.

NO STARTUP CORPORATE OR BUSINESS TAXATION
As incentive to attract business capital and insure profitability and nice returns for investors. For startups, small capital business, or limited owners, women and under age peddlers. Tax increase in stages based on profitability.

ESTABLISH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE
Independent operative agency with enforcement/injunction powers without complex and un-affordable court costs for violated inventors or license holders.

ESTABLISH FRANCHISING REGULATION AND INVESTORS RELATIONS.
Set no rule on how a company gets cash from investors, no min or max number of investors or cash invested. Foreign ownership up to 100% as long as not relating to National Security, Utilities, Defense or other of National concerns

REMOVE ALL EXPORTATION FEES AND TAXES AND LICENSING
No export tax. Fees for the Export logistics and shippers agents and providers only. Set list of industrial items or commodity that is prohibited for export on National Security or Local welfare grounds.

CLOSE ALL DUTY FREE SHOPS AND FREE TRADE ZONES
Convert it to other uses, storage, entertainment, move the Iraqi girls out to strip clubs in those isolated and cordoned area. Get them off the City Streets. Add clubs, Casinos and Presidential suites to get Clinton and Berlusconi for frequent visits, they have a lot of cash and both are Reptilian Hybrid and like underage girls.

REMOVE ALL IMPORT TAXATION ON RAW MATERIALS
Whether to be used locally or for manufacturing and re-export. This is the most complained about by Syrian Businessmen because it raise the price of exported product to become uncompetitive.

ESTABLISH TRADE OFFICE IN KEY COUNTRIES
Provides assistance to foreign businessmen in locating business opportunity in Syria and assist Syrian businessmen in locating markets and resources abroad.

REVAMP ENTIRE ANTIQUATED FOREIGN SERVICE CADRE
Get rid of all ineffective, old, snobby, shabby, un–motivated ambassadors and honorary consular and replace it with young energetic, aspiring individuals.

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February 16th, 2011, 5:48 am

 

24. Norman said:

SNP,
you are making a lot of sense , it is worth discussing ,

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February 16th, 2011, 7:22 am

 

25. Akbar Palace said:

AP’s 2 Cents, Take it or Leave it

Let us have some suggestions, and let us make to the point,
1)
2)
3)
ets, ets

All people are invited, Syrians and non Syrian, Simo, please jump in ,

please put priorities,

Norman,

How are those earphones working? I would upgrade the monitor though.

Anyway, here’s my list:

1.) Build another nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea.

2.) Keep the same President/government for the next 30 years or so.

3.) Stifle freedom of speech and expression.

4.) Demonize those horrible Zionists who will one day, inshallah, be reomoved from the face of the earth.

5.) Arm Hezbollah to the teeth in order to protect Lebanon, get the Golan back and accelerate 4.) above.

Have a nice day,

AP

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February 16th, 2011, 7:34 am

 

26. Souri said:

I don’t understand why Dr. Landis agreed to publish this article. It is just a bunch of disorganized attacks (many of them being personal attacks) that don’t mean anything. This is the kind of usless ranting that one reads in the Syrian media. You read the article and you don’t understand what the author wants. It is criticism for the sake of criticism. It is not scientific since it is not presented in a scientific format.

Unless the author can formulate something useful and scientific, his articles do not deserve to be published again, not just because of the bad quality but also because of the bad language and cheap shots he took at George Saghir. What Syria needs is to get help from well-educated and psychologically-healthy professionals like George Saghir and Elie Elhadj. Please Dr. Landis keep the standards high in this blog and do not publish whatever articles they send you.

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February 16th, 2011, 8:46 am

 

27. Souri said:

Mr. Saghir, your reply to him was very good, even though I believe that you shouldn’t have wasted your time replying him. He didn’t say anything other than throwing personal accusations. He does not know what he wants. This is the kind of mentality that brought Syria’s gdp growth rate down to less than 1% for nearly two decades until the recent reforms started.

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February 16th, 2011, 9:01 am

 

28. Yazan said:

Alex,
The shopkeeper syndrome you speak of, also shows itself in different ways. It’s nice to have personal loyalty, and you certainly see it between “bloggers”, but this shouldn’t happen on a professional blog. It’s disturbing how clique-ish this blog and its comment section has become. It’s nice to hear a dissenting voice every once in a while, and I commend Prof. Landis for publishing this.

أنا وابن عمي ع الغريب… doesn’t belong here.

The writer was certainly no sweet-tongue, but he didn’t resort to name-calling, “self-promoter”, “first-born baby”, “narcissist”? Really?

What you consider as a personal attack, is what many people see as a legitimate questioning of Mr. Saghir’s experience, and where such experience pits him in a purely economic debate. It doesn’t belittle him in any way, neither academically, and certainly not “personally”.

Yours does. Yours is simply disrespectful.

I’m not going to comment on the article, for I am not an economist. I’m simply trying to enjoy a good debate and learn one or two things in the process. Shall we just do that?

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February 16th, 2011, 9:33 am

 

29. G.Saghir said:

Souri,

Thank you for the kind words. Like most here have said, I do welcome and look for a spirited discussion on Syrian economic affairs. There is a big void for such discussions. Sadly, this one was not up to the level that I was hoping for.

Off the wall,

Thank you for digging into the details of the PMI the way you did. I am very excited by this project. The hard work starts now as we need the Syrian companies to agree to join and respond on a monthly basis. The ISM in the U.S. also has more than the five components (imports, exports, order backlogs) but they don’t count in the index. As for your point on the seasonal adjustments, it is indeed the case that the data will be announced to the public without adjustment. In any case, it will be 3 to 4 years before we can adjust the series. We are going to need a history of releases before we (the computer program) can detect any seasonal patterns. The monthly releases will be accompanied by a detailed explanation of each of the sub-components that make up the index.

Dear Yazan,

Like you, I welcome a debate. I would like to read more people disagree than agree with me. By now, my qualifications have become public (too public for my like it). If you feel that they lack the academic depth to support my arguments, it ought to invite more critical scrutiny by those who do. Again, this is exactly what I look forward to.

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February 16th, 2011, 9:37 am

 

30. Yazan said:

Dear George,
I’m in no place (not even close) to judge, or question your qualifications. And my reply was certainly not directed at you. I enjoyed reading your article (and Alex can attest that) as well as your reply (which will hopefully bring this debate back on track, where it should’ve been all along).

I just felt that this little frenzy was out of place, and certainly not warranted. The only reason I coud find for this was what one commenter had to say “Everybody here loves George Saghir.” And I don’t think that’s a convincing argument in any debate. (I would understand and subscribe to such a comment if you were Charlize Theron, but alas, you’re an economists, and economists are debated, not “loved” or “hated”).

As I said, I enjoy reading this, not in the least because of how much I’ve learned reading yours, Ehsani’s, and others’. But since Alex had to venture into gross generalizations and social phenomenons, I thought I might drop my 2cents.

Now, I’ll just be looking forward to reading more.

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February 16th, 2011, 10:01 am

 

31. Jihad said:

Mr. Aita made no personnal attacks. Saying that the piece he answered is simplistic is to the point. Now many think that since they studied in the West and worked for a few years there, they know better than the “natives” (we don’t need foreign recepies) and that allows THEIR FRIENDS to come out like hooligans with obscene jabs at Mr. Aita. But this reflects on them and not on Mr. Aita.

How is Mr. Aita promoting himself by saying that he is a Syrian economist and active in this and that association. Would you like to say that he is otherwise. Finally, alluding to the fact that Mr. Saghir is a specialist in derivatives is needed to make people understand the background of those who write mechanically about complexe issues. The analysis of Mr. Aita made the junction between the economic, social and political aspect of things in a comparative way between Egypt, Turkey and Syria and demonstrated the ill-effect mechanical arguments visited on Egypt and its society.

Finally, the relation to the Audi Bank should also be brought to light because this bank along with other banks members of the Lebanese Banks Association brought nothing to Lebanon but extreme levels of debt and poverty. Bank Audi is the 1st bank in Lebanon. It’s well-known how it got there and how similar banks in Beirut made their money on the backs of the Lebanese people.

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February 16th, 2011, 10:25 am

 

32. norman said:

XXXXX

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February 16th, 2011, 11:00 am

 

33. Souri said:

What deceives you in this article is that it starts by some statistical corrections (or supposedly so), which makes it seem as if it is some scientific stuff, but once you go further you start to notice the gaps and jumbling of thoughts.

These people want results, but they will never tell you how to get at them, because they don’t know how. They disapprove of tourism, they disapprove of real estate growth, they disapprove of subsidy reform, they disapprove of financial reform, etc. They basically disapprove of everything other than agriculture and industry. You cannot do tourism or real estates; you must stick only to agriculture and industry. They feel irritated when they see nice hotels and skyscrapers that generate revenue for the treasury, they want you instead to spend every penny on corrupt state-owned plants and farms.

They live in an eternal state of denial and they refuse to SEE (which is what science is all about, observation) that Soviet-style economy promotes corruption and bankruptcy. They want you to end corruption, but they will never tell you how. They want you to educate, treat, and feed people whatever their numbers are, but they will never tell you where to get the money from when your whole production system is bankrupt because of corruption.

They will only ask you for things, but they will never tell how to get them.

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February 16th, 2011, 11:30 am

 

34. Ziad said:

I followed the economic debate with interest. It seems to me that the criticizers were more out of line than two economists.
Is the debate so heated because the issue of food and energy subsidies so emotional? On the one hand they are consuming so much of scarce financial resources, that the nation could better use in improving the infra-structure. On the other hand no one wants to cut loose the truly needy to go cold and hungry because their current income does not allow them to pay market prices.
When a few months ago Ihsani was promoting a laisser fair market approach for Syria, my first reaction was that this was a recipe for revolution. That was before the recent revolutions.
I think we all agree that subsidies at their current levels are very bad to the country, and it is easy to propose a better market based economy. It is much more useful, and more difficult, for the experts to tell us how to get there, with the constraint of taking care of a large slice of the population currently unable to pay market prices for essentials.

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February 16th, 2011, 11:46 am

 

35. Souri said:

Like Mr. Saghir explained (in his response above as well as in his article), one of the many fallacies contained in this article is the claim that Egypt has had a high growth for a long time. This is absolutely false. Egypt only started to have high enough growth rates and high FDI inflows in the last few years under Ahmed Nazif’s government; before that, Egypt had always had a troubled growth and not high enough FDI inflows. The author of the above article is just making up many things to show that George Saghir was wrong.

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February 16th, 2011, 11:51 am

 

36. Tweets that mention Syria Comment » Archives » “What Does the Future Hold for Syrian Economists?” By Samir Aita -- Topsy.com said:

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by arabist, Pedro Abreu and phbaumann, Syrian Student. Syrian Student said: Syria, the economic angle http://bit.ly/iajGig [...]

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February 16th, 2011, 11:59 am

 

37. Souri said:

Ziad,

The government has already started handing out money payments to the poor and government workers. These payments should not be eternal but they must be a temporary measure until these people learn how to support themselves. People must forget about the government employing them and providing subsidy for them, they must learn to start their own investments. People must learn to educate their children very well so that they can have better lives on their own. Syrians must learn to be creative and productive themselves; they must forget about their government. Being helped by the government (the so-called ‘social role’ of the government) is not something to be proud of. People must be ashamed when they are helped.

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February 16th, 2011, 12:07 pm

 

38. Alex said:

Dear Yazan,

I know you disliked my amateurish psychology 101 comment and analysis, but I will continue to do the same and try to subject you for some more of the same:

Since you opted to not write to me to ask, but to come here and to attack me personally, I assume you are in your revolutionary power mood and would like to exercise that power to change and to rebel against … the Syria Comment elite or tyrants who do not allow an outsider to express his opinion freely here.

Fine. Ahlain w sahlain.

I’ll get to the personal criticism in what I wrote, but let me help you go through the other parts that I wrote in my first comment, #6 to Samir:

“I was ENJOYING reading your rebuttal post”

” … to experience your otherwise WORTHWHILE POST”

” … I’ll leave the conflicting population fertility and growth rates for you and George to debate”

Translation: you made valid points. I am not disputing your analysis… I am not taking sides between you and George on content.

Conclusion: Joshua published Mr. Aita’s post (did he have to?) and I expressed my appreciation and approval in the comment section.

I then made two points that are relevant, I also think you did not want to see them for what they are:

1) Also in comment 6, I suggested that one of the ways to compare George’s approach and that of Mr. Aita is to compare the American (George) and French (Aita) styles … you can either focus on the most relevant variables and move on to take a decision, or you can take much longer discussing the less significant, but still relevant input variables.

I did not imply that either approach is right, in fact George will tell you that I often argue with him because I feel he needs to consider more variables and more constraints before he makes his conclusions. But I also respect the way the Americans are better decision takers.

2) I told Samir that I see him as part of the problem. This is not about him personally, it is about something more significant … something I had to deal with as I tried to suggest solutions for different problems in Syria but realized that many highly qualified individuals (including officials) would shoot down any proposal that they can not take credit for. Talking to everyone who worked on Projects for Syria confirmed the same frustration with widespread narcissism.

Finally … I stand by my impression of Mr. Aita … I did not only base it on what I read from him today. He has been around for years.

So what was it that you found so objectionable in my opinion?

Why do YOU have the right to be so expressive on your blog but I do not have the right for the same?

I agree though that after reading the other comments it started to sound like everyone was focused on Aita’s personal attacks on George and that is why I came back to explain to Norman that in my case at least I wanted to use this opportunity to shed light on a real problem … the difficulty of too many Syrians acting as good team players.

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February 16th, 2011, 12:28 pm

 

39. Ziad said:

SOURI #37

This does not look like a 5 years plan to slash subsidies by 90%. Go tell someone who makes 5$/day you should be ashamed of yourself. you must pay 1$/liter heating oil & 2$/kg bread.
In any subsidized economy there will be many parasites, profiteers, & the connected, but there are also the truly needy. A plan is effective if it manages to eliminate parasites, and helps the needy to become self-supporting over a period of time.

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February 16th, 2011, 12:52 pm

 

40. ghat Albird said:

DEFENSE, DEFENSE is the “word” of the day. Or Lieberman to determine who goes or not goes thru the Suez Canal.

Israeli Defebse Forces that have a habit of DEFENDING Israel in Beirut, Lebanon, invading the gulag of Gaza,as well as in DEENDING ISRAEL with daily flights over Lebanon, attacking flotiilas in open seas is now threatening to DEFEND Israel by gaining control of the Suez Canal.

The Mideast
Israel Warns It Might Act on Iranian Warships Passing Through Suez Canal

Published February 16, 2011
Reuters

An Iranian warship and speed boats take part in a naval war game in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, southern Iran on April 22, 2010.

Israel is monitoring two Iranian warships about to pass through the Suez Canal for Syria and warn they might act.

Israeli’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says that “Israel cannot ignore these provocations,” according to ynetnews.com.

“Unfortunately, the international community is not ready to deal with Iran’s repeated provocations,” Lieberman said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Lieberman added that the warships was “a provocation that proves Iran’s nerve and self-esteem is growing from day to day.”

Iran announced plans to deploy warships near Israel and dock at a Syrian port for a year, IsraelNationalNews.com reports.

A senior Israeli official tells the site that “Israel will know how to deal with it.”

Intelligence officials believe that the Iranian warships might be involved in supplying radical Islamic groups in Yemen with weapons, according to UPI.com.

Israel Defense Minister Warns of Going After Hezbollah in Lebanon Again

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February 16th, 2011, 1:21 pm

 

41. Yazan said:

Dear ustaz Alex,
Your threshold for what you consider personal attacks is apparently very low. (on people other than those you a have a low opinion of, evidently).

I didn’t contact you personally because my reply was “intended” for everyone to see. More importantly, I did not “attack you personally”, in any way, shape or form. I was very specific when I said your “reply” was disrespectful, I don’t see that as an evaluation of “you”, but rather of your reaction this particular instance.

But, when you say “Lack of maturity at your age is not impressive”, then one has very little leeway on how to interpret that. Don’t you think?

Moving on. I have the right to be so expressive on my own blog specifically because I don’t present my blog as an academic platform. If anything, it’s the antithesis of such, and my claim to rationality on my blog is like satan’s claim in heaven (as the Arabic saying goes). You, on the other hand present this blog as a place for serious deliberations and debates of a certain calibre, and I believe you should lead by example, in this particular instance you’ve failed miserably. (In my very insignificant personal opinion, that is). And that’s my main point, when you set yourself a certain standard you’re supposed to keep it.

On the other hand, I, and many others I assume, would love to see you “expressing yourself expressively” on a blog not constrained by the cordiality of academia… only then would I enjoy your treatises on psychology and revolution the way they were meant to be. ;)

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February 16th, 2011, 1:28 pm

 

42. Syria Comment » Archives » George Saghir Responds to Samir Aita said:

[...] I would have loved to read in Mr. Aita’s critique of my article – What Does the Future Hold for Syria – is a road map for how Syria can achieve [...]

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February 16th, 2011, 1:45 pm

 

43. Off the Wall said:

Mr. Saghir
Many thanks for the answers. Good luck with the hard road ahead. On personal level, I am as far from the investment world as it can be, but on professional level, the systems I deal with require sustained social and financial investments. So anytime a proven measure of performance is made available, I am all for it, especially when it is collected, maintained and developed independently.

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February 16th, 2011, 3:22 pm

 

44. Jihad said:

“…especially when it is collected, maintained and developed independently.”

Since when anything that is related to Audi Bank and the likes is independent?!

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February 16th, 2011, 3:33 pm

 

45. Alex said:

Ya 3ammo Yazan

You know that this is the comments section and “up there” you can find the main post.

When I write a main post I keep in mind a different set of rules than when I write a comment “down here”

As I said, my interest was not to launch an all out war against Samir Aita, I gave you examples where I welcomed his contribution and even classified him among those who are highly educated and qualified.

But please mashilna yaha if I felt the need to tell him that his decision to focus on discrediting George is childish.

Do you notice he does not write anything in the comment section? … Don’t worry it is not because we scared him… it is not because he does not know how to login … He simply feels this place is for the little guys. He is a star!

Yazzoun, he and you and anyone are all welcome to write here. You are welcome to “attack” me by telling me I’m acting childishly if you want. But what is not ok is to not base the charge on anything and to go on making it forever like some people used to do here in the past.

I think Akbar Palace has been here for years, and even AIG is back.

Remember on another blog I used to be the only dissenting voice and all of you were against me all the time? … I think Syria Comment is much less homogeneous and more open than other blogging communities. But if I decide to answer Majhool every 10 comments he leaves, or if I told Aita that he is qualified but self centered, I hope you would not classify that as another example of how in SC we always overpower any poor visitors who disagree with us.

That would not be fair.

Finally, if you have a serious topic that you would like to write about because we are all on SC failing to address it, please let Joshua know what you have in mind and I’m sure he would welcome a post from you.

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February 16th, 2011, 5:17 pm

 

46. Off the Wall said:

JIHAD
What i mean by independent is independent of government. This is the way indicators are best collected. Off course it would be ideal if collected by non-profit organization, but such is not available, and I must credit people when I believe credit is due. I am not familiar with Bank Audi, and would keep very open mind to learn new things.

That said, I do fully agree with you about the catastrophe of the General Dept of Lebanon. I have no clue to how it happened, but I know that it is a disaster. Did you recently hear the numbers from Egypt, they are beyond belief.

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February 16th, 2011, 5:29 pm

 

47. Majhool said:

I am interested in sharing a thought with regard to “code of conduct” at this forum

Let me remind everyone here that freedom of speech which includes but not limited to: personal opinions as well as calls for actions were never intended to violate human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good place to start with for guidance. Many here call for violation of human rights. Examples are plenty: from denying the Kurds their cultural rights, to excusing torture, detentions, and murder of fellow citizen.
I modestly believe that supporting any individual or any political group individual is legitimate thing. However, for the purpose of moral clarity, calls of support for violation of these universal rights by these individuals is definitely immoral.

A friend once said to me “I am entitled to support a dictator” I replied “ Sure you are, as long as he is not a dictator” .

Feel free to ridicule my thought, as I think that cynicism is by far better than propaganda. I could probably invested more time to better articulate this thought, however, most SC readers are smart enough to figure out what I mean.

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February 16th, 2011, 8:43 pm

 

48. Fares said:

Mr. Aita rebuttal seems like a shock reaction to someone who has encroached on his “fiefdom” and it ignores the simple and clear facts: Syria has a population problem (with and without the Iraqi refugees) and low growth. We can burry our heads in the sand but for how long?

Mr. Aita should have concentrated on discussing the assertions made by Mr. Saghir and to attack his background seems a desperate attempt to discredit his views. Accusing Mr. Saghir of being a subprime “sabateur” just because he has a long and distinguished career on Wall Street is not a fair and below Mr. Aita intellectual level.

I did not see in Mr. Aita any credible solutions or proposals. Even his comments about the Syrian PMI project come across as envious. Mr. Saghir and Banque Audi are to be lauded for this private effort to bring an important and much watch index to Syria.

Did the French polytechnicien / academicien loose his cool in front of a Columbia MBA and a seasoned Wall Street trader / businessman?

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February 18th, 2011, 10:42 am

 

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