Competing with the Syrian government itself and wining hands down - Syria Comment

Competing with the Syrian government itself and wining hands down

By Ehsani

Imagine boarding a domestic flight from the city that you happen to live in, walking into the airport’s duty free store and walking out of the airport at your destination without any questions asked.

Now imagine visiting a local liquor store to buy a bottle of your favorite scotch and hearing the store owner ask if you prefer your scotch from the official government distribution agency…. or from the airport!

The decision is made easier of course when you find out that the airport scotch is priced some $7 below that of the government’s.

Welcome to Syria’s duty free shops – RAMAK

syria-sept-2007-090.jpg

The website may not strike you as fancy. I can assure you that this is not the case when you visit the company’s stores. Those branches are strategically located near the Jordanian (massive building), Lebanese and Turkish borders. This is in addition to those at both Aleppo and Damascus airports. I have particular advice for those who intend to travel to Syria and who would like to find out what can be imported into the country: Ignore the following advisory and forget brining anything with you.

Cigarettes, perfumes, spirits, lotion, watches and the latest cordless phones are readily available for Syrians and none-Syrians alike.

Local restaurants themselves stock their supplies of spirits directly from their local friendly duty free store.

How do they do that? They all magically know someone who knows someone that works at the duty free.

How does that someone actually manage to routinely take a case of scotch out of the airport's duty free and directly deliver it to the city’s restaurants? This writer cannot answer this question.

Back in 2006, the company’s Managing Director sounded very optimistic about his company’s future. 

The growth potential of Syria and the international buyers passing through Syria were thought to bring the company many buyers. The above article quotes Mr. Mualla as saying that “we can specify our own nationals, Syrians, as great buyers in all categories, especially perfumes and cosmetics”.

Syrians did indeed prove to be great buyers. One would have thought that Mr. Mualla was referring to “travelling Syrians”. Some three years after this interview, Ramak’s business is indeed thriving. Syrians do not need to travel to buy the company’s products. A pack of cigarettes from the Airport is priced just under $1.00.  

The poor loser in this enterprise is inevitably the Syrian government’s coffers. The official government agency (GOTA) is priced out of this game. As a result, the government ends up forgoing all the tax revenues that usually come from tobacco and spirits sales.

Ramak is effectively competing with the Syrian government itself and wining hands down.  

Comments (137)


Alex said:

Thanks Ehsani.

I know that I am supposed to be the resident regime defender here, but I am not defending this one : )

Will any of the other regime defenders provide an explanation?

September 1st, 2008, 5:16 pm

 

Samuel Provost said:

Speaking of duty free and airport shop in Damascus : how come there isn’t any newsstand or bookshop in the duty free area of the airport ?

September 1st, 2008, 5:22 pm

 

Joshua said:

Ehsani,

Great post. I have heard that some of Syria’s neighbors have complained to the World Trade Organization, because Ramak’s taxless products are finding their way into neighboring countries and undercutting revenues there. Do you know anything about this?

September 1st, 2008, 5:51 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If there is corruption everywhere, then why not on this issue also? It is just another symptom of the culture of corruption, so while interesting, I think it does not show anything out of the norm for Syria. If indeed it is the case as Ehsani has reported that army recruits buy vacations from their commanders, then what is so strange about an official getting bribed to allow duty free stuff to be sold outside the airport?

September 1st, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Somebody ought to archive that website.

One day, all of the cheesy websites will be gone, and our grandchildren will find such “vintage” design values to be incredibly hip and visually compelling.

September 1st, 2008, 6:04 pm

 

jad said:

What are you talking about QN!!!! You didn’t like the website design? Man, you have a very high slandered, It’s beautiful….It’s Abou ahmad who design it himself with some help from Marzouk 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

Shai said:

At first glance, I thought “Gee, this (Ramak) looks like a website from the 70’s.” And then I realized, that there were NO websites in the 1970’s… 🙂

Going on a super-tangent for a second, as I’ve been accused in the past of being as close to anti-Israeli as an Israeli could possibly be, I thought of sharing a “rare moment of pride” I suddenly felt (against all innate instincts) this afternoon, when I discovered the following:

The Israeli Supreme Court has today decided that Azmi B’shara, ex-Arab MK, who is currently being accused of having committed a number of very serious security crimes (including spying, aiding the enemy, etc.), will continue to receive his pension from the State of Israel! Imagine that!!! The guy ran away from Israel, and is not daring to set foot here again, either because he’s super-guilty, or because he’s super-afraid. There’s probably more than fair chance he at least aided Hezbollah and maybe even Syria, on at least a few occasions, if not continuously. Perhaps some here in Israel know much more, and perhaps they can prove it. Yet the Supreme Court decided it will not interfere in the investigation, and it will not take away the man’s rights, even if he ran away, supposedly hinting at his possible guilt.

I felt quite proud at that moment… I don’t know about you. 🙂 (I’m sure some here will automatically assume I’m therefore justifying aiding the enemy, and that Azmi B’shara is my hero…)

September 1st, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai

Just for expressing your support for him, I think that the Supreme Court should strip you of YOUR pension.

September 1st, 2008, 6:25 pm

 

jad said:

You should feel proud, regardless of how bad Israel government treat the Palestinians and the fact that it is an occupation in my eyes, you have a justice system that works separately (most of the time, not always) than your political ones and as we studied at school how the three systems should work.
Unfortunately our government doesn’t do it (most of the time, not always)

September 1st, 2008, 6:28 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

If you can get the Supreme Court to agree that Shai has a pension, I’m willing to go fight to keep it… 🙂 (Naji still thinks I work for the State… which would indeed qualify me for a pension!)

Speaking of Duty Free, here’s a site of one of the main chains in the Israeli airport – http://www.dutyfree.co.il/english/content/home.html While everything is very modern-looking (click on the Virtual Tour), I can tell you that I almost never buy there, because it is still cheaper abroad, especially in the U.S. Will it be possible to open up the same kind of Duty Free on the Syrian-Israeli border? I don’t mind buying Duty Free products inside Israel, if a friend-of-a-friend of mine works at this place… 🙂

JAD,

Thank God we have a separation (as you said, not always, but most of the time) between the Judicial and Executive branches. I’ve seen many cases, where the Supreme Court ruled against action that was unlawful towards the Palestinians. Of course, there is infinite more our legal system should have done, to eradicate our own Occupation. I hope this will come soon.

September 1st, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Jad!

I knew it!! … Abou Ahmad and Marzouk were the designers.

Most Syrian sites are designed by Abu Ahmad. He loves to animate every single piece of text on the page … one flies to the left … another jumps up and down … then a third one will dance freely, and then for a touch of classic understated design .. one text block will simply grow in size slowly…. without overtaxing our senses.

Serious Eye candy!

September 1st, 2008, 6:38 pm

 

jad said:

That is so funny Alex, yet true..lol

September 1st, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

Stop making fun and start taking notes.

Creative Syria could use a serious face lift and I think Abu Ahmad is the man for the job.

You don’t have nearly enough flying letters or neon pastel colors if you ask me. People will suspect that you are receiving funding and logistical support from the outside.

I would be very careful if I were you.

September 1st, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I thought I recognized the AIPAC-look in the Creative Syria design…! 😉

September 1st, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

There are reports of a possible quatro summit in damascus in a few days between leaders of france, turkey, qatar & syria

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/DC1DF3BA-9969-4B0C-B553-1C5AA9754C52.htm

September 1st, 2008, 6:56 pm

 

Alex said:

IC … wait for my post tomorrow : )

Shai

Believe it or not, someone from Damascus already accused me of being the recipient of the US administration’s 5 millions Syria fund (or whatever they called it)

September 1st, 2008, 6:58 pm

 

Shai said:

“Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, is pregnant and will keep the baby and marry the father, a senior aide to Sen. John McCain confirmed to CNN Tuesday.” http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/01/palin.daughter/index.html

Which is worse for the Republicans – Hurricane Gustav, or this? Sounds to me like a scene from “Deliverance”… (banjo music)

September 1st, 2008, 7:06 pm

 

Shai said:

And… are they wrong? 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 7:08 pm

 

Alex said:

Eh .. the fact I posted Ehsani’s article today is not enough to qualify me for the useful “Syrian opposition” title.

September 1st, 2008, 7:10 pm

 

Shai said:

“Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, is pregnant and will keep the baby and marry the father, a senior aide to Sen. John McCain confirmed to CNN Tuesday.” http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/01/palin.daughter/index.html

Which is worse for the Republicans – Hurrican Gustav, or this? Sounds like a scene from “Deliverance”… (banjo music)

September 1st, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai

Your comment looked like serious SPAM to the filter!

I released it.

Do you think the news will affect the republicans more than Cheney’s Lesbian daughter did? … that one did not make any difference.

September 1st, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Alex, PLEASE, forgive me for what I’ll write in the next sentence.
If the US administrations did that, I’m sorry Alex, but I’ll add that to another failure of them and I’ll be very happy for you having that amount of money, since on here you can only read the help that the Syrian government needs in pointing out their weak point and getting some people giving them ideas for solution free of charge…

September 1st, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

Shai said:

Yeah, true, but can you imagine the following scenario:

McCain is voted into office. Two months later, (god forbid) he dies of… old age(!) 18-month-old Governor of Alaska, now Vice President of the United States of America, becomes… President of the U.S. of A. And besides some very serious OTJ learning she’ll have to do (hopefully not needing to practice pressing the button), she’ll also have…. a 17-year-old daughter raising a tiny grandchild at home (White House? 🙂 ), with a young man, son-in-law, to watch over. So the Secret Service will undoubtedly have to get an extra budget for a Secret Babysitting Service (SBS)… Ah, what a day that would be. And this is what Syria wants at the talks? 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 7:22 pm

 

jad said:

As sarcastic as you wanted to be in your comments Shai, this is a very serious scenario that lots of people are betting for.

September 1st, 2008, 7:25 pm

 

Alex said:

Jad,

But the Bush Cheney administration only wanted to help Syria! .. where is the failure you are talking about?

September 1st, 2008, 7:26 pm

 

jad said:

The ‘HELP” is exactly the failure I’m talking about.
Does Bush Cheney administration really cares or know the word “help”? 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear JAD,

God Help us all, if this scenario ever happened. And I hope, that bringing it up will make at least 150 million Americans reconsider carefully their next president. Because I’m afraid that if this Palin-chick ever became President of the USA, no amount of beer (or ahwe) will help us. I really hope Obama’s PR guys will do what’s necessary, to put this one to rest. We better not have a repeat of the ladies’ favorite, Dan Quayle, who helped Bush Sr. get elected… (remember that?)

September 1st, 2008, 7:35 pm

 

jad said:

Be preparing for that buddy…
I thought that you are pro-women rights…lol

September 1st, 2008, 7:38 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai

Palin can still manage to do relatively well in a CNN debate against Biden… all she needs is a few days of training followed by memorizing the minute long generic answers on foreign policy that the republican party has smmarized for her.

September 1st, 2008, 7:38 pm

 

Shai said:

The problem with a televised debate, is that most will not be looking at Biden’s breasts… So he can speak like the Dalai Lama, and Palin can chew gum, and she’ll still win…

JAD, in the end, Syria and Israel will make peace with a joint condition “just NOT the USA…” 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

jad said:

That is hilarious…..

Back to the main subject of Ehsani article, what do you think should be done?

September 1st, 2008, 7:43 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani, Alex ,

It is very clear to me that the Syrian government and the Syrian people are the victims in this case , so I call on using the Mukhabarat as under cover to investigate and collect the taxes .

September 1st, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

norman said:

Plin is a Pat Buchanan supporter , she might not be as bad as some people think .

Shai,

Does your wife know what you are writing ?.

September 1st, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Norman,
I don’t think the Mukhabarat can do that, you need more independent and real powerful institution that can deal with such situation. It’s not only the duty free case, the corruption is all over the place and if the government not serious about dealing with this issue nothing can be done.

September 1st, 2008, 7:53 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

If my wife knew what I was writing, I wouldn’t be able to complete this sen… 🙂

September 1st, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

jad said:

Shai
I agree, Palin is an important issue…especially imagining her showing her breasts and chewing gum on CNN…lol
You are a fun man to chat with but I feel so bad that we are socialising on a serious website like this one…but I can’t help it not to laugh and let it go when I read some comments on here…

September 1st, 2008, 8:04 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

I also heard about the complaint to the WTO. No one can confirm it yet to be sure.

Here is a brief description from the blog of a group of travelers who crossed the Syrian-Turkish border this year:

“we stopped at a duty free shop on the border between Syria and Turkey. It was, hands down, the best duty free shop I’ve ever seen. Everybody went crazy and bought outrageous amounts of chocolate and alcohol which must have been quite a sight. Imagine 12 homeless looking people running up and down brightly lit aisles throwing booze, chocolate, and snacks excitedly into their overflowing carts with abandon. The duty free shop had no idea what hit them. But, come on, when Laphroig scotch is $30 for a liter, how can one not stock up for the next year? I got so caught up in the buying frenzy that I even bought another point and shoot camera. I believe it was at that point that the manager appeared, pledging his eternal gratitude to me. He did actually come talk to me and asked me if I would fill out a customer satisfaction card. I gladly and heartily endorsed his shop as the best duty free shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending an obscene amount of money in. “

September 1st, 2008, 8:05 pm

 

Shai said:

JAD, (and others)

I’m sorry. I usually don’t venture into such “realms”. I’m often working on two computers at the same time (so I can keep up with SC), and when I saw this “breaking news” on the CNN site, I just lost it. It was so funny (and not).

I do look at SC as a very serious and wonderful forum to discuss important topics, with truly great people (like yourself). And while it must be frustrating for writers of these very interesting pieces to see commentators (like me) going on these tangents, I’ve noticed that there is a tendency for that to happen every now and then. This was probably too much…

But SC is also a wonderful opportunity for us, few Israelis, to “socialize” with our “enemy”. If all we do is talk seriously, it would be a shame to miss out on also being more relaxed, and ourselves.

Okay, I think I’ve met my “annoyance” quota for today, and it is in any case time for me to adieu. Leaving the SC-Ship in your good trusted hands… Good night!

September 1st, 2008, 8:15 pm

 

jad said:

Shai,
I agree on everything you wrote and I think the same way, if we are going to be politically correct in every word we say we end up stuck ourselves in a box and we won’t be able to leave it or look outside it.
I’m glad that we have people like you on SC showing us that the other side have more hope than us and communicating with it is fun and can happen.

September 1st, 2008, 8:26 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

What do you think?.

Report: Israel-Syria indirect peace talks delayed

JERUSALEM, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) — The fifth round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria was postponed due to the resignation of the lead Israeli negotiator, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Yoram Turbowitz, who heads the negotiating team on the Syrian track, has resigned from the position of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff, and thus lost his legal authority to conduct negotiations on behalf of Israel, said the report.

As a result, the fifth round of the Turkey-mediated talks, originally scheduled on Thursday, has to be postponed as Turbowitz waits for Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to grant him legal permission to continue to lead the team, according to the report.

Yet the delay has caused Syrian and Turkish officials to speculate over Israel’s intentions, reported the Israeli Army Radio, with some claiming that the decision came in the wake of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent visit to Russia and his statements on Syria’s intentions to buy Russian missiles.

In response, sources at Olmert’s office told the broadcaster that the only reason for the delay was bureaucratic, and Israel is “committed to continuing the talks with Syria and they will be renewed as soon as possible.”

Israel and Syria announced in mid-May that they had started peace negotiations under the auspices of Turkey, some two weeks after a bribery probe against Olmert went public, which led to speculations that such a move was aimed to divert the public attention from the scandal.

The key issue between the two neighbors remains the strategic Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981. Syria demands the return of the entire highland, yet polls have shown that the Israeli public strongly oppose a full withdrawal.

September 1st, 2008, 8:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
It seems that Asad is saying that Syria needs a better education system:
“Assad told me this summer that he wants to make peace with Israel. He is afraid for the future of the region, which is growing more socially conservative and sliding toward terrorism. To stop the country from becoming a fertile ground for terror, he said, you need development, culture, an educational system and dialogue. And you absolutely need peace. This is a fundamental difference from Iranian policy.”

I’ll let you have your fun of finding the whole article online and posting it. I think Asad is too late. Nothing can stop the slide of Syria. You cannot wake up one morning and decide you want development. As for dialogue, that is in the hands of Asad and he should lead the way with it instead of throwing his interlocuters into jail.

September 1st, 2008, 9:51 pm

 

Alex said:

NOrman,

Tell Bashar that it is too late … Syria is ddomed.

What is wrong with him? he just woke up today and discovered education??!

September 1st, 2008, 10:05 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Apparently it is. Because Asad claims Syria “absolutely” needs peace with Israel to stop terror in Syria. But since the chances of peace with Israel are very very slim, it seems that Syria is doomed.

Of course, doomed is a strong word. Syria will survive, just that its people will remain among the least developed in the world unless there is peace. In that small sense Syria is “doomed”.

September 1st, 2008, 10:15 pm

 

norman said:

AIG ,

Assad is saying what i have been saying for a while ,

Peace is needed to stop fundamentalism and it is Israel that will suffer ,not Syria , the rise of the fanatics comes from Israel insistence on taking the rights of the Palestinians ,and the lack of peaceful means to get their rights ,

September 1st, 2008, 10:27 pm

 
 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

The “delay” that they’re talking about probably has something to do with a Ynet report that the U.S. has put the brakes on the talks, because of Syria’s cozying up to Russia.

I don’t think that Ynet is always reliable, but this may be the reason that things are stalled right now.

So in these situations, one is faced with the familiar chicken/egg problem. Did Bashar miscalculate with his Russia statement? Or was his intention to piss off the West and make them put the talks on ice?

September 2nd, 2008, 1:15 am

 

norman said:

QN,

If the talks are delayed it is because they were never meant to succeed , they were meant to entice Syria so it will not help Iran if Iran is attacked , The flirting between Syria and Russia might have opened their eyes that Syria is not desperate for a peace treaty with Israel at any cost.

September 2nd, 2008, 1:39 am

 

Shai said:

Norman,

Don’t give up yet. I really don’t think Syria and Israel had different interests in the talks. Even if the “only” reason for the talks was Israel’s attempt to get Syria not to side with Iran should it be attacked, isn’t that also in Syria’s best interest? Imagine a regional conflict taking place, with Iran, HA, and Hamas lobbing thousands of missiles at Israel. Would YOU want Syria to also take part in this? Isn’t it clear that Israel would completely lose “control” and severely punish everyone around? Syria doesn’t need that, for its own people, and that is precisely why Assad stated in the UAE that even if Iran is attacked, Syria will not get involved (in those very words).

But to be honest, I think Olmert really did want to achieve an agreement, and really did want to make peace. He made a complete 180 this year, against the wishes of the Bush administration. But unfortunately, his own corruption charges got in the way. There are attempts right now, by both sides, to get the 5th round under way still. Turbowitz’s resignation (from government, by the way, not from heading the talks) may influence his participation, by law, not by choice. So they’re looking for a way around this. Perhaps Turjeman (his teammate) could temporarily be in charge of the talks. We very much need a 5th round before the 17th of this month, when Kadima primaries take place. We don’t know what Israel will look like after the 17th…

September 2nd, 2008, 3:46 am

 

anon said:

Unrelated to everything else: info is currently making the rounds in some international media that Syria has recognized South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence, immediately after Russia did so. I can’t find any info to corroborate this, and it seems to be wrong.

Does anyone have any info on this?

September 2nd, 2008, 9:15 am

 

trustquest said:

What a bomb shell Ehsani, it seems that you still shy to say that one family who is controlling the politic and the economic of the whole country is looting the nation since the 1980 and have gathered over 100 billion dollars according to Phd Economist, Aref Dalila. Btw as immigrants do you feel that you are in danger when you visit the country from the Syrian authority if you speak your minds? However, I excuse you because I do not want you on your next visit to gamble and take Dalila place.

Some nice people on this forum are looking positively to this looting and they are blessing those thieves and praising them for investing in the country. But all around the world, the money-making budgets are the taxable items such as tobacco and alcohol. The average tobacco collection in our state comes to $5 per capita from tobacco tax only. Some States like Oregon collect almost $49 per capita.

For a country like Syria, if I make a guess and consider $10 per capita goes to the pocket of the big thieves and robbers since the 1980s, this is huge. 10 billion SP is the waste from tax evasion of cigarettes which almost what the Syrian budget spend on higher education. Thinking how much smoking is widespread in Syria and making the math, it is may be a quarter of billion dollars is stolen from state to the pockets of the thieves from tobacco. The post is not funny; it explains why one guy has a budget larger than the country national budget. It is also confirmed from the past 8 years, that the regime is not going to get help from anyone outside his circle and they still shunning off the new cadres who might make a difference. So, it does not look to me a problem only concerning alcohol and cigarettes it is much bigger.
And the boys on this site having fun changing the subject and kidding on the periphery of the subject.
But you did not bring the economic of the post. Ehsani, can you give us an estimate how much harm this family is doing to the country in dollars amounts.

September 2nd, 2008, 11:38 am

 

MSK* said:

Dear all,

Just saw this:

Hamas leader Meshal ‘leaves Syria for Sudan’
By Haaretz Service

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1017473.html

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Tuesday that Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal has left Damascus to live in Sudan at Syria’s request, in a move stemming from Syria’s desire to advance indirect peace talks with Israel.

The paper quoted Palestinian sources stating that the move was part of a secret deal between Meshal and the Syrian authorities. Meshal has been based in Damascus since his expulsion from Jordan some ten years ago.

Israeli sources believe that the move signals a serious desire on Syria’s part to advance the negotiations.

Israel and Syria announced in May that they were holding indirect peace talks under Turkish auspices. Since then, senior officials in Jerusalem have stated that Syria has carried out a number of measures that reflect that it is taking talks with Israel seriously.

One of Israel’s key demands in the negotiations is that Syria break off its contacts with Palestinian militants groups, in particular Meshal’s Hamas.

Anyone heard something to substantiate or refute? (Tried to see the original piece in al-Rai, but their site isn’t loading.)

–MSK*

September 2nd, 2008, 12:13 pm

 

norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 12:38 02/09/2008
Hamas leader Meshal ‘leaves Syria for Sudan’
By Haaretz Service

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Tuesday that Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal has left Damascus to live in Sudan at Syria’s request, in a move stemming from Syria’s desire to advance indirect peace talks with Israel.

The paper quoted Palestinian sources stating that the move was part of a secret deal between Meshal and the Syrian authorities. Meshal has been based in Damascus since his expulsion from Jordan some ten years ago.

Israeli sources believe that the move signals a serious desire on Syria’s part to advance the negotiations.

Israel and Syria announced in May that they were holding indirect peace talks under Turkish auspices. Since then, senior officials in Jerusalem have stated that Syria has carried out a number of measures that reflect that it is taking talks with Israel seriously.

One of Israel’s key demands in the negotiations is that Syria break off its contacts with Palestinian militants groups, in particular Meshal’s Hamas.

Related articles:

Meshal: Gaza is ‘real holocaust,’ armed resistance only option

Meshal: Summit is U.S. ruse meant to distract from war vs. Iran

Meshal: Hamas backs Palestinian state in ’67 borders

——————————————————————————–

/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1017473

close window

September 2nd, 2008, 12:18 pm

 

Averroes said:

EHSANI2,

Thanks for the post. It’s a true shame, the state of the Duty Free fiasco in Syria. I will add to it something that I know. A couple of years ago, an officer from Syrian Customs, apparently newly appointed at the airport, started intercepting buyers who were filling up and heading out into the city with full Duty-Free labeled shopping bags. He started telling them that the duty free is intended for those heading out of the country, not into the country.

Well, that didn’t last long. He got a visit from four Duty-Free sympathizers who beat him up big time at the airport, in front of his fellow officers. Since then, buyers are not intercepted anymore.

Although in general I support the regime in many things, I think that corruption at this level is extremely damaging to the country. Much more so than the amount of money that’s being sucked out of the system into a certain individual’s pocket.

This kind of corruption is what scares away hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments, which would have translated into jobs, and income for the government.

It is a shame and must be stopped.

September 2nd, 2008, 12:28 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Trustquest,

You are the only person to have shown any interest in the subject thus far.

It is sad.

No one even bothered to ask who Ramak is and how can this go on.

My friend Alex asked others for an explanation at the top of the comments section.

Not a single person bothered.

Let the corruption spread like cancer for all I care. For if the educated and elites that make up this forum don’t care, what possible chance is there for the average Syrian citizen to do so.

In High smoking countries, some 65% of men and 30% of women smoke. The numbers for Syria could not be too far behind.

Syria has close to 20 million people. Let us assume that only half of them are of smoking age. Let us also assume that 65% of the smoking-age men smoke and that 30% of the women do so. This means that nearly 4.8 million people smoke.

If if one assumes that the Government could tax tobacco consumption by a mere $1.00 a pack, close to $ 2 billion of potential tax revenues dissapear.

Think of what $2 billion could do to the country’s health care and/or the education system.

Remember, we are just talking about cigaretts here.

Western societies end up taxing such items way more than the $1.00 in our example. In major cities, the cost of a Marlboro is close to $8.00.

Dear Trustquest,

Just forget it.

No one cares.

Averroes,

I salute you for your comment. It is indeed not just the Dollars and cents in lost revenues that is the issue here. It is the whole mindset of corruption and the devastating effect it has on potential investor confidence.

September 2nd, 2008, 12:49 pm

 

Averroes said:

Ehsani,

I don’t think that no one cares. Read my post above.

This level of corruption is exactly like cancer. And beating up an officer of the government who attempted to defend the system makes it 100 times worse. Can you imagine being this officer who stood up for the system and was so badly turned down? What do you think his feelings are toward the whole system now?

And I think most people know who RAmi MAKhlouf is.

September 2nd, 2008, 12:55 pm

 

Shai said:

Ehsani,

I think much of the blame is on me. I went on an unnecessary tangent (McCain’s choice for VP), and carried a few commentators in that direction. I do apologize for that. I will try to treat SC a bit more seriously, especially when such topics as you’ve written about are put up for discussion.

I actually thought quite a bit about it last night, and just couldn’t come up with even a “smart” question to ask. It just seemed so ridiculous how widespread corruption is, and how no one seems to have an interest in getting rid of it. Indeed it must begin with the leadership up top. But how do you do that, if some within the leadership also have no particular interest to end it? Believe me, I get so furious with Israeli politicians that pretend to have Israel’s interests in mind, and in reality, they are some of the most corrupt people on earth. Doing for themselves, and their friends & family first. And in a way it’s much tougher to get rid of, in Israel, because most people actually don’t realize it. Now, after quite a few high-level officials are being investigated, the country is beginning to distrust politicians as a whole. That too, of course, is terrible, because it leads many to this “numbness” I talked about in the past. Since they don’t trust their leaders, they want nothing to do with politics, with influencing policy, or change. They’ve given up…

I imagine much of that is also present in Syria. The toughest question really is, where do you even begin?

September 2nd, 2008, 1:08 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani ,

Look at this, we are not trying to ignore the subject ,

norman said:

Ehsani, Alex ,

It is very clear to me that the Syrian government and the Syrian people are the victims in this case , so I call on using the Mukhabarat as under cover to investigate and collect the taxes .

September 1st, 2008, 7:45 pm

September 2nd, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

MSK* said:

Dear all,

Kuwait’s al-Rai is now loading & here’s the article on Mash’al moving to Sudan:

مشعل إلى السودان بدل سورية… في إطار صفقة؟

ذكرت مصادر فلسطينية لـ «الراي» ان رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة «حماس» خالد المشعل «انتقل إلى الاقامة في السودان بدل دمشق»، وأوضحت ان «اتفاقاً غير معلن تم بين السلطات السورية ومشعل يقضي بأن يغادر الأخير الأراضي السورية».
ولم تستبعد المصادر أن تكون مغادرة مشعل لدمشق «في سياق التقدم المستمر في العلاقات السورية- الإسرائيلية عبر المفاوضات التي تجرى»، مستشهدة بتقارير نشرت في صحف غربية تشير إلى ان تسويات أخرى كثيرة «قد تكون تمت في اطار هذا السياق منها تصفية (أو تسهيل تصفية) عماد مغنية والعميد محمد سليمان».

http://www.alraialaam.com/Alrai/Article.aspx?id=76341

–MSK*

September 2nd, 2008, 2:06 pm

 

norman said:

حماس تنفي مغادرة خالد مشعل لسورية إلى السودان

نفت حركة المقاومة الاسلامية (حماس) الأنباء التي تحدثت عن مغادرة رئيس المكتب السياسي للحركة خالد مشعل سورية للسكن في السودان.

المزيد

September 2nd, 2008, 2:12 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Moving? Or kicked out as a CBM?

Or maybe he’s just going on vacation? I hear Sudan is lovely in August.

September 2nd, 2008, 2:58 pm

 

Jad said:

Ehsani,
There was no need for what you wrote about people doesn’t care, it was just me and Shai who were chit chatting.
I don’t think that everybody on this site always comments on the main subject especially when some of us (like me) not an economist to know the details or even have any power to do anything about it, and the fact that I don’t smoke and I’m not a big drinker so it’s not my subject to comment on and I know that you will have a huge problem making a pack of cigarette for 8$ while the average salary is 300$ a month, I don’t think it will work this way.
Even Shai, he is an Israeli man who his comments are excellent when the subject matters to him and you actually made him apologize for nothing wrong he did???? Next time please don’t lecture us.
I also would like to advise anybody who want to write down a percentage of anything please link it to a real census for accuracy and credibility, for all of us to be aware of the issue and be knowledgeable about.

Now for some nice and negative people here I’ll say that by the end of the day not you, nor me who is hiring thousands of Syrians and putting food on their family’s tables, even though Marzouk is a corrupted person and I’m not a big fan at all, he is investing money in Syria while you and I are not, so why I should condemn him day and night knowing that there is no real alternative at the moment and the government can’t do anything.
Should my people become more poor and miserable than they already are to say that I achieved something and be proud about? I don’t think so at least from my side.

September 2nd, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Marzouk?

You clearly are clueless as to what is going on.

September 2nd, 2008, 4:14 pm

 

Jad said:

Thank you for the second lecture
in case you don’t know Marzouk is Rami’s nick name.

September 2nd, 2008, 4:16 pm

 

trustquest said:

Ehsani, you have the thunder now, thanks a lot for your insight and honesty.

Thanks Shai for realizing that, and believe me I love to steel the prize from the dictator and say that I would prefer hundreds time Israel system to him, do hear that AIG.

Ehsani, no one ask who Ramak is because all of them know who he is, but avoiding the subject is the disturbing part. Of course they know about politics but they are poor in economic and they will handed to you on a condition not to go too far.

Sorry to hear from Jad, what he said that it is not his obsession to look for who is stealing his grapes, he would hire an economist to look after his possessions instead of getting a gun and shoot the wolf.

What is confusing to me is what motivates one thief to keep accumulating tons and tons of money and still can not think that having a pool of rich people is much better for him than being alone. Shouldn’t he start thinking like Henry Ford and make the capitalism revolution or he is taking revenge from history because his ancestors worked as maids. Shouldn’t he understand by now that any type of work is an honor on forehead of the worker and shame on the receiver? How long would it take to make the flip from clannish mind to the urban mind?

I think the Assad revolution from the system of administrations to thievery system should have an end by now. Mr. Dardari can not do much if he is not allowed to touch the bad spots in the system which actually now breaking the State’s back especially when you say that one guy and one item is depriving the State of $2 billions the State in a bad need for it.

To keep the whole country hostage for one man (or one family) even when he has been condemned by his likes in the US administration is beyond believe and will put them down as a family and as a sect for the rest of the future history.

The brainless big king who is reading these lines, can we expect his conscious to budge a little and make a badly needed correction to end a blunder that is eating the country and putting its future on hold.

The regime does not need any course in management and best business practice, they are sufficient and contempt with their bad practice.

It is an Orwellian farm and in bad need for a new horse.

Here is first the definition of Dictator so that we can be clear on what we are talking about so people are careful when they shield the dictator:
DICTATOR, n. The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.

The dilemma is that we hear the people cry and plea to their dictator inviting him: please be our king so we can rid ourselves from the disease but they know and he knows that Syria can not be a monarchy. so

Here is a poem regarding the expected VAT which is in my opinion is a diversion from taxing the big fish which might be applicable to the subject matter regarding our king’s thinking:

HEAD-MONEY, n. A capitation tax, or poll-tax.

In ancient times there lived a king
Whose tax-collectors could not wring
From all his subjects gold enough
To make the royal way less rough.
For pleasure’s highway, like the dames
Whose premises adjoin it, claims
Perpetual repairing. So
The tax-collectors in a row
Appeared before the throne to pray
Their master to devise some way
To swell the revenue. “So great,”
Said they, “are the demands of state
A tithe of all that we collect
Will scarcely meet them. Pray reflect:
How, if one-tenth we must resign,
Can we exist on t’other nine?”
The monarch asked them in reply:
“Has it occurred to you to try
The advantage of economy?”
“It has,” the spokesman said: “we sold
All of our gray garrotes of gold;
With plated-ware we now compress
The necks of those whom we assess.
Plain iron forceps we employ
To mitigate the miser’s joy
Who hoards, with greed that never tires,
That which your Majesty requires.”
Deep lines of thought were seen to plow
Their way across the royal brow.
“Your state is desperate, no question;
Pray favor me with a suggestion.”
“O King of Men,” the spokesman said,
“If you’ll impose upon each head
A tax, the augmented revenue
We’ll cheerfully divide with you.”
As flashes of the sun illume
The parted storm-cloud’s sullen gloom,
The king smiled grimly. “I decree
That it be so — and, not to be
In generosity outdone,
Declare you, each and every one,
Exempted from the operation
Of this new law of capitation.
But lest the people censure me
Because they’re bound and you are free,
‘Twere well some clever scheme were laid
By you this poll-tax to evade.
I’ll leave you now while you confer
With my most trusted minister.”
The monarch from the throne-room walked
And straightway in among them stalked
A silent man, with brow concealed,
Bare-armed — his gleaming axe revealed!

September 2nd, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

JAD,

I am not lecturing you or anyone else. You are free to respond or to ignore any material you find.

I do stick to my comment that few people care about this topic. I am free to state my opinion. I have no idea why you take it personal.

Trustquest,

This issue has nothing to do with sects. It is important that one sticks to facts and avoid sectarian issues.

September 2nd, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

Jad said:

Thank you Ehsani for explaining since your last comment didn’t say that at all.
I toke it personally because before your comments it was only me and Shai were chatting and the fact that Shai did apologise and someone thanks him for that is personal enough.
Again, I’m not an economist and I don’t want to comments on what is not my speciality therefore when I don’t comments on the subject it doesn’t mean that I don’t care it means that I don’t have any interesting comment that might help. You become a host when you have an article here that means you have to be the most tolerant one regarding any comments you will get not judging us of being careless.
Thank you

September 2nd, 2008, 4:40 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Aren’t there tax-free shops on every international airports, ships (cruisers, ferries etc) which sail to foreign countries and in some cases even on land borders. Why not in Syria?

For example in Finland where the tobacco and alcohol taxes are among the highest in the world there are tax-free shops. Before Estonia joined the Union millions of Finns and Swedes went by those huge ferries to Tallinn to buy cheep tobacco and alcohol. Much of that alcohol and tobacco was bought on the ships tax-free shops. The ships were owned buy Finnish and Swedish companies.

Were our governments pissed off of the billions lost in taxes? Of course they were. But what could they do? Finally the alcohol and tobacco tourism did grow to such extend that Finland had to lower its taxes with alcohol. Also EU makes for Finland difficult to hold its incredible high alcohol taxes. Now everybody can go buy car to the nearest EU country which sells cheaper alcohol and load to his car so much as possible (for own consumption of course).

By the way Eshani2 in Finland and Sweden alcohol is sold through state owned shops. Capitalism and free trade you know. Also before (I suppose not any more) the Finnish ministers could buy their alcohol without taxes. Democracy you know. 🙂

I am smoker (pipe) and I remember when I went to Italy in the end of 70’s. I wondered why everybody was smoking Malboro cigarettes but shops did not sell Malboro. Italy that time had rather high taxes on tobacco. Well the Mafia had organized along the ancient traditions of free trade (= no unnecessary laws and taxes, something those US free trade enthusiast love) a well functioning importing and retail business.

September 2nd, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

simo,

Could you have a bottle of scotch delivered from Helsinki airport’s duty free shop to your home address without you having to leave the country?

September 2nd, 2008, 8:23 pm

 

trustquest said:

Sim,
The subject can be explained partially on this link:
http://www.mideastmonitor.org/issues/0801/0801_8.htm

September 2nd, 2008, 9:28 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

Ehsani2,

Do you think it’s possible to solve this problem and similar ones in Syria without tackling the thorny issue of political reforms?

September 2nd, 2008, 9:37 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

What do you mean by political reform?

September 2nd, 2008, 9:42 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

Let’s start with freedom of expression. Are the Syrian people able to talk about this problem openly?

September 2nd, 2008, 9:58 pm

 
 

Seeking the Truth said:

I rest my case!

September 2nd, 2008, 10:07 pm

 

Jad said:

Ehsani,
Since I’m bad in economy as someone tagged me, I have a question, are you sure about the $2 billions number you wrote in your comments?
It sounds very high for a country like Syria that its people spend $2 billions a year on cigarettes alone and that is the tax as you said not mentioning the full price! And how many passengers they go in and out the country a year and how many of them buy cigarettes and Alcohol from the duty free? Because whenever I pass through our great airport it’s always empty.
I’m just interested.

September 2nd, 2008, 10:34 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

Jad,

Practically all cigarett sales in the country end up putting close to zero in government coffers. The price per pack on the street is just less than one dollar. I tried to estimate how many people are smokers in a country of 20 million. I arrived at a number of 5 million. I then speculated what would happen if the government attempted to collect one dollar in tax from each pack sold. Five million dollar a day adds up close to dollars two billion a year. Is this scientific enough? Perhaps not. I would like to hear how my simple analysis could be improved.

September 2nd, 2008, 10:45 pm

 

Jad said:

I’m just surprised how high that is.
Yes, It’s simple and scientific enough, Thanks for not being sarcastic and sorry for asking.

September 2nd, 2008, 10:56 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
I think you are right about the taxes that could be collected. Assuming 1 pack per day on average and 5 million smokers that comes out to 5 million per day. Times 365 it comes to: $1.825 BILLION dollars.

September 2nd, 2008, 10:59 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

Dear jad,
I don’t you why think I would be sarcastic. You are asking a very good question. The number strikes you as high indeed but the reality is that it appears to be reasonable. Governments tax this so heavily not only to increase taxes but to also lower the health care spending that comes from a highly smoking population. This is the logic used in western capitals where the tax reaches 5 or six dollars per pack.

September 2nd, 2008, 11:05 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani,

I have a solution and I want your opinion ,

The Syrian government should tax all the merchandise that are bought by the free zone company to be sold in their shops , then give that company the tax back after it provides prof of sale to forign nationals with a copy of passport and an affidavit of sale signed by the buyer that his signature matches the signature on the forign passport.

September 3rd, 2008, 2:16 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Norman,

Taking items out of the Duty Free and selling them into the domestic market ought to be a no no. This is the way it is in practically every country on this planet.

Cigarette sales all over Syrian streets takes place without questions asked. Most make their way bypassing the government totally. This issue goes beyond the duty free business.

September 3rd, 2008, 2:25 am

 

norman said:

Ehsani,

I remember when people in the street of Hims selling Marlboro and Winston , they were smuggled from Lebanon , at that time there was no legal way to import foreign Tobacco.

To prevent people from doing the wrong thing , you either have to very strong morals or very strong laws , both seems to be lacking these days in Syria.

September 3rd, 2008, 2:33 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Why is it do hard to stop the smuggled cigarette business?

September 3rd, 2008, 2:38 am

 

norman said:

I think that is because of lack of free legal importation of products , I think if they allow the free importation of products the prices will be lower and will not be worth it to buy smuggled cigarette , I want to add that the people who sold the cigarette were minors , so probably whole sale smugglers were behind them .

I think that the government did not want to imprison the poor kids who were trying to make a living and did not know how to get to the big fish.

September 3rd, 2008, 3:07 am

 

Shai said:

Ehsani,

In most developing countries where cross-border smuggling takes place, someone close to the top is involved. In Iraq, Saddam and his children ran the business amazingly well. You need a very inefficient policing mechanism to NOT be able to put a stop to such smuggling. Syria, from what I know, is not known for its “inefficiency” in its security services. Smuggling cannot end as long as every person along the chain benefits. When a nation is so poor, and corruption so widespread, the concept of “collective benefit” must seem hallucinatory to most.

September 3rd, 2008, 3:46 am

 

Majhool said:

I would like to thank Ehasni2 for the great post. For a moment I thought I was reading a different blog. The issue is a disgrace and is just one of many others of the same scale.

It’s sad to read comments filled with denials such as “the government and the people are victims (..)” where it’s all OUT there for people to see. The thief is no one but Bashar’s cousin and responsibility is crystal clear.

I agree with Ehsani that sectarianism has nothing to do with it. Yet I continue to pity some of those who support them for mere sectarian reasons under all kind of pre-texts and/or to remedy ambiguous inferiority complexes.

A thief is a thief. At this level (Billions of Dollars) it’s either black or white and hardly any gray

September 3rd, 2008, 5:13 am

 

Shai said:

Majhool,

I respect your opinion, and understand your extreme frustration. But aside from supporting your “brother-in-arms” so to speak, what is the solution? Isn’t the main problem here that there is a great divide between those who believe the only solution is a regime overthrow, and those who believe it must be done while working “with” the regime, rather than against it?

You cannot imagine how much I hate the innate corruption within our political system in Israel. In fact, I outright detest it. There’s wheeling-and-dealing going on inside the parties, between the parties (especially around elections), and of course between individual politicians and potential voters, supporters, donors, people with influence, etc. But the system is so deep-rooted, that my wish to see it eradicated will probably not be met in my lifetime. Instead, I’ve come to accept that the system must change from within. And that the only way to do so, is to join it, play by its rules long enough to achieve position of power, and then begin to make changes. Personally, I cannot see myself playing by those “rules”, and therefore my influence on the system of corruption is, for all practical purposes, nil. My so-called “activism”, when it comes to the issue of corruption, is translated into supporting people I know that are far better built for these battles, who are contemplating joining the political arena. But aside from talking, I’m doing next to nothing.

How do you, or other Syrians, feel about your own system? What can you do about it? What are you doing about it?

September 3rd, 2008, 5:47 am

 

Majhool said:

Shai,

“ Isn’t the main problem here that there is a great divide between those who believe the only solution is a regime overthrow, and those who believe it must be done while working “with” the regime, rather than against it?”

Nope. The main problem is not the imposed divide. The problem is simple. We have a regime that is sectarian in terms of support base, has neither legitimacy nor representation and suspends basic rights and rule of law. That’s the problem. Syria has no system..Unless you cal “fear” a system. And no it’s not rooted in the people and is not a bit organic.

The solution (or the beginning of the solutions) is for all free thinkers to speak up, and expose the regime.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:04 am

 

Shai said:

Majhool,

No, I understand that. But once corruption has penetrated through every level of society, and has become such that no person almost can avoid participating in it (or otherwise paying a heavy price), what good is “exposing the regime” going to do? Do you really think there’s a single person in Syria, or expats abroad, who does not know the situation, who runs it, who benefits most, who benefits less, etc.?

The opposite, I would dare say (and correct me if I’m wrong), that Syrians on the whole know much more about their corrupt system, than Israelis do about theirs. So beyond “exposing”, what’s the next step?

September 3rd, 2008, 6:19 am

 

Majhool said:

Sink the ship. Or at least watch is sink on it’s own. in between it’s going to be mere survival.

Did Martin Luther King accept the system?

September 3rd, 2008, 6:30 am

 

Shai said:

No, MLK didn’t. But then where is Syria’s “million man march”? If you want to change the system from within, but not to play according to its rules, you have to be prepared to suffer the consequences. MLK was able to march throughout the U.S., because there it was legal, and no police or Mukhabarat could stop it. In Syria, I imagine it would be a bit difficult to practice civil-disobedience. But when was it last attempted, in large scale? (since Hama). Syrian opposition cannot change things by sitting in Paris, or Washington. The most it gets, is some pats on the back from administration officials, couple million bucks to print flyers in a non-existent underground movement maybe, and to “prepare for replacing the existing leadership” (however ridiculous that may be).

Where is Syria’s Lech Walesa? Alright, where is Syria’s MLK? If they’re abroad, their abilities are limited to the point of being ineffective, potential “puppets” of anyone that will adopt them. Perhaps Syria will need a Nelson Mandela type, who will rally his people enough to create a momentum, and then spend many years in prison, only to emerge its first democratically elected leader. But where is such Mandela? And where are the millions of supporters needed for this to happen?

September 3rd, 2008, 6:56 am

 

Majhool said:

It will take time. We are not there yet. First we have to reject reality. it will take 20 years for the next march in the meantime people have to go on with their lives.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:05 am

 

ABU ZATAR said:

I HEARD THAT THE DUTY FREE SHOPS OWNER IS A COUSIN OF THE PRESIDENT. AM I WRONG? ANOTHER QUESTION, WHY DON NOT TALK ABOUT THE TAXI IN THE AIRPORT OF DAMASCUS? BEFORE THERE WERE MANY COMPANIES AND THE PRICE WAS ABOUT 500 SP, NOW THERE IS ONLY ONE COMPANY AND THE PRICE IS 1200 (TO GO FROM AIRPORT TO DAMASCUS). AND EVEN IN THIS CASE THE OWNER OF THE MONOPOLY COMPANY OF TAXI IN DAMASCUS IS A COUSIN OF THE PRESIDENT! RIGHT OR NOT?

CAPITALISTIC MONOPOLISTIC NEPOTISM.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:21 am

 

Rumyal said:

Majhool,

Do you think Bashar would ultimately want to see a more liberal Syria? After all, he didn’t grow under the same circumstances of his father, so this is not totally farfetched, or is it? Does anyone know what he really wants?

What is it that needs to happen over the next 20 years? Is this an attempt to prevent a rerun of the Iraqi sectarian violence by lifting the curtain little-by-little? It might work… Makes you wonder whether we weren’t both better off under British and French colonial rule, taking up self-governance at a slower pace.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:26 am

 

Majhool said:

RUMYAL,

This goal has nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding his upbringings. The goal is very clear and obvious: To stay in power…No noble causes what’s so ever.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:46 am

 

Shai said:

Rumyal,

There are times I wish we were still under Ottoman rule… 🙂

Majhool,

I can’t possibly feel the same frustration that you do, as I am not a Syrian, or an Arab. But when I do ask myself whether Bashar is any different from his father, or other dictators in the region (past or present), I can only go by a feeling I get when I hear him talk, and when I see his foreign policy. I can’t imagine that this Western-oriented and raised man, who listens to country music on his iPod, is planning to rule Syria ruthlessly. A Turkish defense minister once said that it is permitted to defend democracy in non-democratic ways. Perhaps Bashar feels he must practice non-democracy, in order to bring about democracy one day. What he inherited from his father, and from a long and harsh history, cannot be undone in an instant, nor in ways that are too obvious, especially to all those who oppose change.

Surely there are still plenty of old guard, who would be more than willing to go far to stop Bashar from changing the system that provides them so much until today. This is what he is up against, and through this he must maneuver. I certainly cannot judge him. Is he doing things correctly? I can’t say. Are there better ways, given the existing circumstances? I can’t think of any.

September 3rd, 2008, 8:17 am

 

trustquest said:

Shai, you have raised some good points. You said : “where is Nelson Mandela”, and some might disagree with you that we had one: Riad Turk, he spent quarter a century in prison and the authority succeeded in smashing him. But put this on the side, in general since none of the civil society figures could achieve a turning point in the struggle, you are right. I know the civil society is not effective, but all are betting on changing world which supposedly have created the atmosphere necessary to make this happen.

This is a translation of an article that shows the current simmering clashes between old backward forces and the new liberals in the Syrian society.
The writer did not mention where the president stand but I think Bashar is not on any side of this clash because he has his own issues.

Backward elites in a changing society
By Yasin Haj Saleh:
As if according to an inherent programming never get wrong, the authorities in Syria back to what was habituated before 2005, without an increase or decrease of their same old game. Perhaps even with the tendency towards tightening procedures in remembrance with the era of President Hafez Assad. Logic declared to the authorities and extracted from their practices goes like this: we emerged from the crisis, this mean we are right. No review of any kind, no indicators for readiness to interact more positively with the developments of internal and external environments that would be a factor for the development of the system itself and to improve their own political fitness; There is only the feeling of victory, which puts the past three years between parentheses, and there is no fervor to learn something of them.
It seems to us that the continued inability to renew oneself to meet the interests of the regime itself before others is the low qualifications of cadres of the system, that on the level of government, security, partisan or ideological level. It is not likely to have cadres of those opposed to the development of the system in principle when the development is just a conviction for the attractiveness of development; it requires a match between potential development with special interests and cadres who have specific and new qualifications. Alas, this is not available, because the current cadres were dispensed from development for decades due to their hold on Authority and they did not improve or work on their development, intellectual, political, and professional qualifications. Been there done that, that is their way, why stress and bother to look to accomplish a different way?

If security problems solved this way, why should discuss social policy which is always hard?
If loyalty is the essential part, why bother in establishing qualification of independent and self esteemed personalities what might constitute a danger to the State structure.

Yes, the regime wants order in the renewal, or in the «development and modernization» according to their language, but they have requirement to keep everything as it is.
The only exception for the «keep everything as it is» is «economic liberalization», which may be explained as a responding to the interests of «new bourgeois» composed of people of trust and close to the top echelons in power, and because the alternative to economic development is likely the economic collapse.

In light of the qualifications and capabilities available, it appears that there is no room for keeping vested interests without preventing the development of political and intellectual openness. The underdeveloped Elites protect backwardness, which guarantees its influence. Here, the first and foremost reason for the begetter of periodical structural imbalance crises is mainly political. Crisis this way is the manifestation of the system including the last one and for the regime it shows his importance.

Indeed, the low qualifications are broader than the regime and extend to the large segments of the «elites» to anyone involved in public affairs.

In the last two years political rhetoric exploded even among opposition literatures and practices in oral and political literature to include stirring Communism and Arab nationalism in particular, which was supposed to be extinct one quarter of a century ago.
Not only reiterate the seventies ideological and psychological and behavioral, but also without call it humbly (Arguer then) the way of the young and enthusiastic. The basis of that humble ability is the political and intellectual weakness of their relevance to changing conditions.

But while the humility of the regime is based on his acquisition of power and loyalty priority against efficiency and qualification, the continued modesty here is the possession of «knowledge» and the primacy of belief over criticism. There is no need for those who know everything «completed knowledge education» to learn? Upholding »knowledge», who we do not know of any other better, is the best way in such a situation. The backwardness here is also the solution. Therefore, asking the cadre to say something different than thirty years ago says is asking them to shut up. Of course, this is intolerable.
Perhaps to give positive value to this situation is to reward a praise those «steadfastness on the principles», and to those on the »continuation in the struggle», and this way they denounced the changing of ideas and convictions. For them changing of ideas and convection is a sin.

This ideological steadfastness forced to shift to deficit (failure…or backwardness) is considered this way as Grand Illumination (endurance…). Perhaps this is the origin of the trend of conservatism we have and some others. People in general are not against development or progress as abstract principles, but they will if their positions and influence are likely to be deteriorate if someone opened up political and cultural systems which they accustomed to its methods of work and their positions been accepted by society, then they will invent an evolution systems and cognitive change and condemn change conditions and worship the steadfastness and firmness.

On the other hand, those who have more diverse capabilities and flexible means try to add value to change. Such as change ideas and habits, regulations…, and even the System, they develop progressive ideologies, biased in principle for change and transformation, and undermine the stability of the usual stigma of rigid changelessness.

We may be able to represent the ideological and political polarization in Syria in the last two years as “progressive / conservative”, with the notion that today conservatives are yesterday’s liberals, and today progressives are the new «Liberals» or the like.

This approach allows us to understand the raging struggle against the liberal, «neoliberal», inside the community which called «historical bloc» of the seventies, which is a mixed mobilization of party members, Baathists and communists, NASSERITES, and military personnel and ideological descendants of the general staff of small rural or urban poor. They feel they were in the best world in the era of President Hafez Assad and only very few of them currently participate with the ascent and influence of new «bourgeois». This struggle might seems at first glance-an exaggerate rattling by the seniority of those yesterday liberals and a trial intended to convince oneself that they face same old ideological «old bourgeois enemy class». But in fact this struggle reflects their adamant denouncement for change and neo liberals which carry a serious threat to their social security.

Is there a way to develop Syrian system, political, economic, intellectual, administrative and security, without touching the interests and the conditions of broad sectors of frozen qualifications of entire generation?
Progress is costly, but failure is catastrophic. This might be the biggest dilemma facing Syria today. It is the source of tensions and conflicts of political, social and ideological struggle and it is expected to amplify.

The recent opening and the relaxing of conditions internationally and regionally could be an appropriate factor for the liberation of the dynamics of the previously mentioned tensions which are likely to be the engine for the next Syrian crisis.

September 3rd, 2008, 11:15 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Syrian regime is a kleptocracy:

“A kleptocracy (sometimes cleptocracy, occasionally kleptarchy) (root: klepto+kratein = rule by thieves) is a term applied to a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) at the expense of the population. A kleptocratic government often goes beyond mere cronyism and nepotism, or awarding the prime contracts and civil service posts to relatives or personal friends rather than the most competent applicants. They also create projects and programs at a policy level which serve the primary purpose of funneling money out of the treasury and into the pockets of the executive with little if any regard for the logic, viability or necessity of those projects.”

From wikipedia.

September 3rd, 2008, 1:17 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
“Are there better ways, given the existing circumstances? I can’t think of any.”

You really can’t think of better ways to move forward? How about freeing the “patriotic” opposition, those that Alex even thinks should not be in jail? Why can’t Asad free Kilo?

Then how about creating a national dialogue not based on fear? Give some limited freedoms so that a true discussion can happen. Let the Muslim Brotherhood speak its mind and explain how it views the future of Syria. Let other opposition groups do the same. Try to be national undertanding and a consensus through a managed dialogue.

There are SO MANY things Asad can do, but you can’t think of any “given the circumstances”. Seriously, Have you crossed the line and are now supporting the Asad regime “given the circumstances”? When it comes to what Israel can do, you condemn us for not having more imagination and taking more risks. But Asad can do nothing more? Really Shai, what is going on here???

September 3rd, 2008, 1:38 pm

 

norman said:

Syria stands at economic crossroads

By Lina Sinjab
BBC News, Damascus

The world’s oldest inhabited city is changing.
Traditional industries that have given Damascus its distinctive character are now competing with Western imports.

In a historic market in the city centre, Kenan Tafesh is weaving a seven-colour silk brocade using a traditional loom and techniques used for generations.

It is the kind of industry Syria has relied on for centuries.

“This is a very important industry. It is the symbol of Damascus. You cannot mention Damascus without thinking of the brocade,” he says.

But ancient Damascus is getting a 21st-Century facelift.

Pavements are being dug up and jasmine trees planted as part of a huge beautification project.

Expensive tastes

Since biblical times, Straight Street in the Old Town has been the home of merchants making and selling carpets, soap and spices.

But among the warren of traditional industries, a newcomer has set up shop.

Foreign companies that have interests in Syria will have to defend their interest in Syria
Commentator Jihad Yazigi

Villa Moda has brought luxury designer brands to Syria for the first time.
The shop has opened not only because there is a market for expensive fashion, but because the government has relaxed rules on foreign business start-ups.

The owner is Kuwaiti prince and self-styled “Sheikh of Chic” Majed al-Subah – one of the main foreign investors in Syria.

“There’s a huge demand for business like this,” he says.

“Syria may have a bad reputation, but businesses should come here and see for themselves.”

Socialism to capitalism

This socialist state has introduced a range of new laws which have opened Syria to international and private business.
In the past year, cappuccino culture has arrived, with the opening of international coffee chains.

Many of the customers in such cafes have studied and worked abroad – and are bringing now their experiences back home.

“This country is seriously booming,” says one of a group of young women in western clothes. “Everyone dresses up, the places are new, the roads are clean. We are not going to be third world for the rest of our life.”

Part of the new strategy is to use business to improve relations with other countries in the region and in the West.

“It is a way for Syria to break the isolation, because by attracting investment you are having foreign companies that have interests in Syria and they will have to defend their interest in Syria,” says economics commentator and Syria Report editor Jihad Yazigi.

“It’s a circle. More investments improve political relations and political relations attract more investment and more investments”

Rising prices

Syria has been a socialist country led by a single party for decades.

People must believe in the opportunities that this new economy offers them and move away from depending totally on the state for finding jobs
Deputy PM Abdullah Dardari

Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Dardari, who is spearheading the economic reform programme, says the changes present opportunities and challenges.
“They are a challenge for social equity, for stability and they are challenge to the status quo,” he says.

“What we need to have is the culture of an open and integrated economy, people to believe in the opportunities that this new economy offers them and move away from depending totally on the state for finding jobs.”

But most people in Syria are yet to feel the effects of foreign investment.

In a food market in Damascus, people are haggling over the price of vegetables.

“My husband is a civil servant and yet we cannot afford to live any more. We have to prioritise our purchases,” one shopper tells me.

In May, the government cut fuel subsidies, leading to a 300% increase in the cost of diesel, with a huge knock-on effect for prices.

International effect

In downtown Damascus, you can now dance the night away in an open-air rooftop bar that would not be out of place in any European capital. It costs about $20 (£10) to enter, which is half the average weekly wage in Syria.

But liberalisation of the economy has brought international jobs and increased some salaries in the private sector.
Business student Omar drinks his tequila, and wonders how people can afford places like this.

“For me I do some work, I can afford it, but I don’t save money, that’s the thing,” he says.

The waiters make about £25 a week. For Amaar Mohammed, it is one of his two jobs.

At the end of his shift in the early hours of the morning, Amaar transforms from nightclub waiter to school teacher.

“Life is becoming harder. You have to work hard to survive. I’m working just to buy a simple home. I don’t dream of anything else,” he says.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/7594800.stm

Published: 2008/09/03 11:35:28 GMT

© BBC MMVIII

September 3rd, 2008, 2:05 pm

 

idaf said:

Ehsani,

If it was up to me, I’ll also collect 1 dollar tax for each “argeeleh” served in restaurants and cafes. Probably, that will generate even more income than tax on cigarette packs!

Few interesting news items..

Damascus to collect $550m from phone companies in 2008
Published: 27 February 2008 17
MEED

The Syrian government expects to collect about $550m in royalties from the country’s two mobile phone operators, MTN and Syriatel, in 2008.
..
..

Syria stands at economic crossroads
BBC
03/09/2008
The world’s oldest inhabited city is changing.

Traditional industries that have given Damascus its distinctive character are now competing with Western imports.

In a historic market in the city centre, Kenan Tafesh is weaving a seven-colour silk brocade using a traditional loom and techniques used for generations.

It is the kind of industry Syria has relied on for centuries.

“This is a very important industry. It is the symbol of Damascus. You cannot mention Damascus without thinking of the brocade,” he says.

But ancient Damascus is getting a 21st-Century facelift.

Pavements are being dug up and jasmine trees planted as part of a huge beautification project.
..
..

Syria- Ties That Bind

Oxford Business Group
03/09/2008

(MENAFN – Oxford Business Group) In the midst of a whirlwind diplomatic campaign aimed at improving ties with the West, Russia and the Middle East, Syria has also taken time to bolster relations with Libya in hopes of attracting foreign investment and boosting trade.

The two countries have much in common. Briefly united in the 1970s as part of the short-lived Federation of Arab Republics, which also included Egypt, both continue to be supporters of greater pan-Arab unity. Both are also implementing reforms aimed at opening up their economies and reducing the role of the state.

Most significantly, both are in the process of returning to the international fold, after being ostracised for alleged involvement in sponsoring terrorism. Syria’s efforts to end its international isolation are still a work in progress. Damascus has received wide praise for its support of reconciliation in Lebanon, which has since seen that country elect a president and form a national unity government. The international community has also warmly welcomed negotiations between Syria and Israel, with President Bashar Al Assad being feted at the Euro-Med Summit in Paris in July.

Relations between Damascus and Tripoli have at times been strained, especially following the 1990-91 Gulf War, when Libyan leader Muammar Al Qadhafi criticised Syria for supporting the US coalition against Iraq.

That hostility appears to have been overcome, with Syria reengaging with Libya, most recently during a visit by Finance Minister Mohammed Al Hussein to Tripoli in late July.

Of most immediate benefit to Syria was an agreement to write off $350m of accumulated interest on a $200m loan made to the Syrian government. Under the new agreement the original funds, which had been deposited with the Central Bank of Syria in 1982, are to be invested in a cement factory for a limited period of time. The loan is to be repaid to Libya after the completion of the plant and its transfer to the Syrian government.
..
..

September 3rd, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

Alex said:

IDAF

Taxing argeeleh is a brilliant idea!!!!

Ehsani … IDAF wins this round.

If you want to know how close Syria and Libya are getting, I’ll tell you a story 😉

After attending the Arab summit in Damascus this year, Colonel Qaddafi spent a day touring Damascus with President Assad. At the end of the day they walked downtown, bought deserts from a street vendor, had fun talking to Syrian people, and then Mr. Qaddafi asked if he can meet famous Syrian comedian Doreid Lahham! (Ghawwar Tosheh)

Doraid was informed at 8pm that he will have the VIP visitor at home … Qaddafi arrived at midnight. Doreid invited many Syrian artists (Actors and actresses) to meet the Libyan leader.

Qaddafi had a great time in Damascus.

September 3rd, 2008, 3:27 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

Alex,
As I recall, idaf wins every round. This time is no different

September 3rd, 2008, 3:32 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

I was joking ya zalameh! … the two of you together always win.

Imagine if they tax BOTH argeeleh and cigaretts! .. 5 billions per year of taxes for the state! .. and perhaps 25% reduction in smoking rate.

September 3rd, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,

If you are going to have 25% reduction then the tax will be 3.75 Bil only.

September 3rd, 2008, 3:39 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani,

I think , I got it , It is the Syrian way to stimulate the economy , eliminate taxes on some people and allow business activity , Legal and illegal,

September 3rd, 2008, 4:25 pm

 

Alex said:

Norman,

I’m the Engineer here damn it! … you are only a doctor.

Mazboot : )

Although Argeeleh smoking, after the 25% reduction, might still generate the 5 billions … Syrians are crazy argeeleh smokers.

September 3rd, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

norman said:

So Alex,

Do you think that the Syrians will figure out that the government is trying to make them smoke less by increasing the taxes so they increase their smoking to annoy the government as a symbol of defiant , They might do that , you know.

September 3rd, 2008, 4:50 pm

 

Alex said:

Let’s get that Tax setup first, then we’ll spend some of the money on elaborate anti-smoking campaigns.

September 3rd, 2008, 5:09 pm

 

jad said:

Norman and IDAF
I’m confused, should I be optimistic and believe BBC, MEED, and Oxford Business Group and other regime’s lover media that there is hope and small steps work in changing our country toward a better future. Or should I have a dream and attend a peaceful uprising to prove them wrong and get the free of speech and democracy first, which one is more important for NOW?
Please advice.

Alex,
I have a suggestion, how about everybody on this site pro and anti Syrian authority, write couple lines of what they really want to see in the country they want and what is the best way they think will get us there, everybody in his own speciality.
Clear ideas that could help us all and for once get a clear vision of the picture we draw about Syria we want and the way to get there.
It might end up as a good start for getting together and do something instead of arguing without any results.

September 3rd, 2008, 5:43 pm

 

Alex said:

Jad,

They love to write comments on their own, but when you ASK them to write something specific, most are unable to do so.

But I did manage once to get enough of them to do what you are suggesting.

here is it.

http://creativesyria.com/syrianbloggers/?cat=4

September 3rd, 2008, 6:07 pm

 

Shai said:

JAD,

Shortly after I joined SC, and after realizing just how amazing this place is, I suggested a get-together of everyone. It was to be either an SC-Conference (3-4 days, professional speakers, forums, discussion groups, etc.), or something else. I got at least 10 people that agreed to come, and I bet at least another 10-15 would have also. It wasn’t supposed to be focused on Syria-Israel, but rather on Syria, but to also have a section on Syrian-Israeli relations. I don’t recall anymore why the idea “died”, but I still think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to meet one another, to have a more meaningful (and enjoyable) time of discussion, and perhaps to serve an example for what a bunch of motivated, internet savvy bloggers can do. What do you think of such an idea? It can be held in Cyprus, or Turkey, to enable people from this region easy access (difficulties getting visas, etc.)

September 3rd, 2008, 6:10 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I don’t want to get into a discussion with you right now (please let’s take a break from those for a while – the last one truly exhausted me, and probably everyone else). I’ll be polite enough just to answer you, but let’s stop at that.

I believe Assad cannot risk being overthrown. He cannot grant freedom of speech like you and I are used to. He can’t take a chance that opposition groups will raise difficult topics on the streets, or in the media, which will embarrass the regime, and may rally the people against it. He indeed can, and should, free certain opposition figures like Kilo. But unless Kilo (or others) can begin to speak again, I don’t see how much doing so will benefit freedom in Syria (though I’m still for it of course).

As a final note, I’ll say that you seem to have adopted a certain belief, that unless people are actively fighting something, they obviously support it. I think that’s overly presumptuous of you and, in most cases, wrong. No one here “supports” the regime, no one here likes to see Kilo in jail, no one here wants democracy and freedom to be withheld from Syrians. Because people disagree with your time schedule, with your plan, with your ideas, does not mean they are not interested in the same goals. Because I say I can’t see an easy solution (or any) right now to corruption in Syria, doesn’t mean I’m for it.

Zehu, enough said.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Alex
That is a great link, yet going through some of them it’s still the same way everybody writes on here,
What I was thinking in is more technical stuff, lets say
Planning, Economy, Education, Civil Society, Agricultural, Industry, Commercial….etc.
Something more structural and goal oriented than writing an essay, how about having a blank interactive base sheet on Creative Syrian site with blank different sectors, that everybody interested can write down in the field he can attribute to with realistic numbers and scientific proof as well as some example he/she can link it to any important piece that support his suggestions.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:31 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Syrian regime is a kleptocracy

AIG what is a country where the president gets fired for raping women, the PM is forced to retire for corruption claims and where tens of members of the Parliament are claimed to be corrupt. One could say that in Israel people with very low moral seem to seek to political posts. To Israel’s credit can be said that you have a functioning police. Though the same police seem to be rather lazy when the crimes are committed against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

AIG can I call Israel a kleptotheocracy?

————


simo,

Could you have a bottle of scotch delivered from Helsinki airport’s duty free shop to your home address without you having to leave the country?

No I can’t. Sad but true. 🙂

Eshani2 are you seriously claiming that any Syrian can order alcohol and tobacco from tax free shops and get them delivered home. I doubt that and I believe the problem is relative marginal. Surely a “well connected” Finn can in Finland buy smuggled alcohol and tobacco. And in case he knows a person working in tax free shop even might manage “to bypass” the system.

Even in Finland have been cases when restaurant owners have tried to increase their profit margin buy selling smuggled alcohol with normal prices. Some of the richest families in Finland made their fortunes during the Prohibition Act in the in the 20’s and 30’s by “supporting free trade and individual rights” with speed boats full of Estonian spirit. The richest Finns family made their fortune with “weapon technology transfers” to Israel and with owning gambling businesses in USA.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:37 pm

 

Alex said:

JAD,

Good idea. I will hopefully try to do something along those lines one day sometime later this year.

Problem is … you have no idea how lazy people are … most will not bother interacting with a non-conventional web page where they need to spend 5 minutes to understand how it works.

I tried twice (different projects) but bloggers are so spoiled, they refuse to do things that are not totally self-inspired.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

jad said:

Alex
I came up with a quick example of what I was thinking about, it’s a draft; please don’t comment on it…

Civil society: concentrates on improving lives of all Syrian in urban and rural areas, encourages a deep understanding of the secular system not based on religions or believes.
Education on two levels,
School level, involve student in different sports and cultural programs with local and international schools and encourage them of attending friendly competitions to develop their skills (we can help link some school we have in Syria with ones we have in the area we live in at the moment)
University level, open new independent research centres connected with an international network that will eventually be the core and engine of our university studies, research and curriculum.
Regional Planning, every municipality will have its own planning guideline written and discussed by specialized consultants and have people from the community to prove it. You will need help from the government on these issues regarding bylaw and enforcing the rules.
Development area, concentration of improving the north east part of Syria and recognise it as an economical base for many reasons
Agriculture,
Sustainability….
Energy….
Industry….

September 3rd, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Simo,

I sat down with a person who owns a chain of restaurants. He assured me that he buys his supply of alcohol from the local airport’s Duty Free Shop. My own father buys his “black label” scotch from a person who gets it straight from the friendly duty free at the airport. None of the above actors have to ever leave Syria. I am very glad that you believe that the problem is “marginal”.

September 3rd, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

jad said:

Alex, check this out
http://www.archis.org/network
I know how difficult to do that webpage but I think people like something similar, it will be a game-like for them yet they learn something..

September 3rd, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

Alex said:

I will Shai:

You all lazy!

: )

Jad,

Very good.

I promise to discuss it with my ex-supervisor. We both still work on and publish user interface research. Might find something we can publish out of such a mini-project.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

Shai said:

Hold on a sec… let me get a pizza and a beer… 😉

September 3rd, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

jad said:

Shai
I like your idea and it sounds more productive than mine, and if it happens that will be defiantly a huge news, we will be on the BBC, however, as a Syrian, I’m afraid that I can’t meet you in any ‘official’ atmosphere while our countries didn’t sign a peace agreement.
Therefore and till peace comes, the internet will be a better place for such discussion.
Can you imagine AIG being there?…OMG….lol

September 3rd, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

trustquest said:

JAD,
There are a lot of resources on the internet regarding structural goals and specifics for Syria, but unfortunately it has put on hold by the regime. The same Issue, freedom of “Talking” is essentials to hear from reputable and specialists which Syria have a lot of them, inside and outside the country. The Syrian Economic Society is one of them, used to be a wealthy resource for wonderful Syrian Academics who posted lot of studies regarding the Syrian economy.

Here is the link:
http://www.syrianeconomy.com/
Also, Mr. Sukkar has his own studies you can access through this link.
http://www.scbdi.com/all/viewAllArticles.php

JAD, BTW, your suggestions great ones, but you need to put on the top some source of income to the state to fund your suggestion, and I would say that Ehsani post is doing just that.

I’m not an economist and I wish Alex would invite academics from Syria, on bother sides of the issues to hear their views when SC touche on an economic issue like the current Ehsani’s post.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:07 pm

 

idaf said:

Alex,

Nice try, but you won’t easily manage to create a rift between me and Ehsani 😉

Seriously, if/when VAT is to be introduced in Syria, argileh should be the first thing to be included IMHO.

Dr. Norman said:
“Do you think that the Syrians will figure out that the government is trying to make them smoke less by increasing the taxes so they increase their smoking to annoy the government as a symbol of defiant , They might do that , you know.”

Yeah, wishful thinking Dr. Norman. Don’t worry, doctors will not run out of business, even if Syrians stopped smoking completely.. there will always be pollution and reckless driving 🙂

JAD said:
“I’m confused, should I be optimistic and believe BBC, MEED, and Oxford Business Group and other regime’s lover media”.

No you shouldn’t. Stick with neutral media such as Assiasah, Future TV and Al-Arabiya and ignore those biased BBC and Oxford Business Group 🙂

Shai,
That was a good idea. I’m all for the SC conference in Turkey. Interested Syrians can get the Turkish visa in 1 hour in Damascus or Aleppo which would make things easier. More importantly, I still have a valid Turkish visa from earlier this summer, which should save me 20$ in visa fees on my next visit. However, I think we missed the opportunity of the summer time when many SC commons would’ve been in the region.

September 3rd, 2008, 7:08 pm

 

Shai said:

JAD,

You’re right, there are “mutual problems”. But this would not be an official get-together. Heck, it would be even less official than the Olympics. And here too, if you like, you wouldn’t have to jump into the water, in a 50-meter race with me… (I was once a lifeguard). But seriously, if it was an SC meeting, with about 25-30 regulars, from the entire region, and 2-3 Israelis, you think that would be a problem? We would be representing no one but ourselves (Ok, so AIG would be wearing the AIPAC uniform, fine… no, I’m kidding…) I think if the conference was about Syria, not Israel, then maybe it could work. I don’t know…

IDAF,

There’s always next summer… 🙂

September 3rd, 2008, 7:09 pm

 

jad said:

Trustquest
I don’t believe that everything should be funded by the government, there are a lot of rich Syrians would chip in when you approach them with many ideas that will support the society and improve people’s life, beside, the world is full of organizations that are looking for project to fund, why can’t we use this approach instead of waiting for the government to do so (it wont)
If will wait the government, nothing will move as quick and as good as we all want. We all have the same goal, what we need is the will and to keep trying.

Thank you IDAF for the advice, I’m going to watch them immediately…:)

September 3rd, 2008, 7:19 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

Any “potential” rift between me and IDAF is very easy to solve:

I will concede to the smarter, calmer and less dramatic between the two of us.

In other words, it will never go anywhere near turning into a rift.

Those were the good old days on SC 🙂

September 3rd, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

Majhool said:

I find the exchange about VAT rather strange. did SC turn into a consulting firm to the Syrian Gov? I think all of this is a distraction and actually dilute the issue at hand. There are many Syrians capable of coming with ideas well suited to the miserable conditions of the economy. The problem lies in the systems that does not allow for it and instead propels corruption and impedes progress.

September 3rd, 2008, 8:14 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani, Idaf, JAD, Norman and Shai.

Please stop distracting us from the issue at hand!

If you want to write anything, make sure it is limited to one of the classic protest statements condemning the regime and blaming it for 100% of all of Syria’s problems.

If you don’t feel creative enough today, you can borrow some ideas from here:

http://www.free-syria.com/loadarticle.php?articleid=25937

Thank you for respecting the saintly, productive and courageous efforts of the persevering regime fighters based in the United States.

September 3rd, 2008, 9:39 pm

 

Majhool said:

Instead of sarcasm, do you really think that proposing this and that will change anything? I don’t know about you, but it’s clear to me that the goal of everything they do is to stay in power. Exposing the regime and calling its practices as they really are is not standard classic protest practice at least not in SC. I don’t find calling an all-out corruption and abuse of power as “lost competition”. if anything is distracts the reader especially if they are not familiar with the issues.

September 3rd, 2008, 10:51 pm

 

Alex said:

“everything”?

They don’t spend billions buying weapons for the Syrian army?! … those anti aircraft missiles and those long range missiles are meant to protect the regime against he Muslim brotherhood?

They take the whole thing and deposit it in their Swiss accounts?

Please allow other commentators here to “distract” the readers from the “everything” mentality that you want to stick to.

September 3rd, 2008, 10:58 pm

 

Majhool said:

So you are saying that a guy stealing billions of dollars (in reference to Ehasni’s post) from a poorly financed government and eventually the poor people of Syria are capable of actually caring about the people’s wellbeing? And buying anti crafts missiles is also for the people?

When did you leave Syria?

September 3rd, 2008, 11:40 pm

 

Alex said:

Majhool,

I know what I am saying, and others here know what they are saying. No need to go back to your typical distortions.

How would you like it is I distorted your comments this way:

“Majhool, so you are saying that the regime is responsible for WWII! .. this is bizarre .. did you study history?”

September 3rd, 2008, 11:54 pm

 

Majhool said:

Alex, you are the one who turn to sarcasm.

Let’s move on. We don’t want to dilute the issue yet another time.

Now it’s time for my soccer game. Later

September 4th, 2008, 12:09 am

 

norman said:

Shai,

Your idea of conference died because our wives did not agree though us on a location.

Jad ,

Syria is moving in the right direction , it could move faster ,

Syria should have what we have in the US , I do not know where you live , In the US decentralization is very important , I live in a town with about 5000 people , we have elementary school middle school from 5 to 8 grades and we have a high school with children from two other small cities or towns with similar amount of people , we have an elected city council and a Mayer , they are responsible for the police , fire department and city services , we all know who they are and will boot them out if they do not provide the services that we think we are entitled to because of the taxes we are paying on our properties ,
Syria can do the same thing , In Homs for instant they can start a trial of dividing the city into towns , Like Hamedia, Mahatta, Bab Alsibai, Bab Al derabe , Inshaat and so on and have every town elect it’s city council and make them responsible to provide services , will see how function and see if they are able to take care of the people they are supposed to serve ,taxes on the property should be enough to provide these services .
Property taxes are easy to collect as the house or the properties do not move and can not be hidden.

I think Syria can do very well if starts to see the laws which are working in the US where i do not know of any Syria who is not successful under these laws and paying taxes ,
I wish that Syria stops trying to reinvent the wheel and try to use laws that are tested in the US.

September 4th, 2008, 1:51 am

 

Syria Comment » Archives » Ehsani on Syria Comment over the Years said:

[…] The issue of corruption was raised by focusing on the duty free business in September 2008. “Imagine boarding a domestic flight from the city that you happen to live in, walking into the airport’s duty free store and walking out of the airport at your destination without any questions asked. Ramak is effectively competing with the Syrian government itself and wining hands down.” […]

September 4th, 2011, 4:04 pm

 

Elektrische Zahnbuerste said:

… [Trackback]…

[…] Read More: joshualandis.com/blog/?p=851 […]…

November 21st, 2011, 4:00 pm

 

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