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Damascus announces plan to launch stock market

Syria is to open its first stock market in Damascus some time next year, official media reported on Tuesday, with the move being hailed as a major step in the state-run economy's liberalization.

"This is extremely important for the process of economic reforms," Finance Minister Mohammed al-Hussein told the official Syrian Arab News Agency, recalling the government's call to transform the largely state-run economy into a "social market economy."

He said the Damascus Stock Exchange would seek to create "a suitable climate to facilitate capital investment in expansion of economic activities."

Mohammed al-Imadi, chairman of the Syrian Securities and Stock Markets Board, said the stock market "represents the economic openness, development and modernization policies under the leadership of President Bashar Assad."

The chairman of the Syrian Chambers of Commerce Federation, Ratib al-Shallah, hailed the move as "a turning point in the level of economic reform in Syria [and] the umbrella for Syria's ambitious program for best investments and creating new funding fields."

Syria has already started to liberalize its banking sector, with private bank accounts allowed since early 2004.

But foreign investors are still awaiting further reforms, including the complete liberalization of foreign currency exchange. Some steps have been taken in this direction, with Syrians now allowed to open bank accounts with and carry out transactions in foreign currency.

Amman,10 09 2006
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The Daily Star
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