|A new 'advanced and liberal economy'|
|Syria's latest accord with Europe will improve competitiveness|
Following the initialling of the European-Syrian Partnership Accord last week, the head of the Syrian State Planning Organization emphasized the importance of the rule of law and transparency in liberalizing the Syrian economy.
In an interview with the Lebanese daily As-Safir on Tuesday, Abdullah Dardari said that the accord allows Syria to have a more competitive and open economy.
He said that this was of great importance for Syria as the populace see themselves as increasingly isolated from the developments and changes affecting the global economy.
Dardari said that this was dangerous, as economic success relies on knowledge and good economic management.
"We want an advanced and liberal economy that depends on the market forces. But the economic and trade policies will be supervised by the state," he said.
Dardari underlined the need for administrative reforms. "We also want a judicial system that depends on justice, transparency and a clear investment base."
He added that the accord will enable Syria to boost investments in the future by up to $5 billion a year and increase the added value of the industry from 19 percent to 35 percent.
In Syria, he said, there was technical and financial cooperation aimed at building up an investment structure and a climate favorable to investment.
Dardari said that the accord was aimed at advancing and developing the quality of Syrian products and goods to be able to compete with the Europeans. "This cannot happen in a closed economy run by the state. This is not acceptable to the Europeans. We agreed before joining the WTO to adopt WTO standards because it is the WTO which governs the way this partnership accord works," he said.
"We used to negotiate without fully knowing our economic situation. But now, after finishing analyzing our economic situation, we are looking at a 500-page document which is boring due to the extent of detailed information," he said.
He added that the problem in Syria was not the variety of opinions but the state's hesitation.
He said that Syria has several things in its favor: its high foreign currency reserves, the surplus in its balance of payments, a stable level of inflation, and stability in its currency exchange rate. "I see it this way: Syria has a window of opportunity as a result of the impact of the surging oil prices on the economy," Dardari added.
He said that Syria's import of oil in 2010 is expected to represent only 25 percent of total imports instead of earlier projections of 70 percent.
The minister was alluding to the discovery of huge oil reserves in some parts of Syria.
"I can assure that the economic reforms will not be at the expense of the country's poor," he added.
Beirut,11 02 2004
The Daily Star