The decision made by the Syrian interim government to suspend the salaries of its employees has become the subject of speculations and raised questions about the reasons for the decision, especially as it coincided with reports of new developments accepted by the opposition institutions in the context of talk of imposing political settlements.
The decision was followed by a visit of a delegation from the interim government and the National Coalition to Saudi Arabia, followed by the president of the coalition’s statements, Riad Seif, to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper about the establishment of a national fund that meetsthe costs of running the government. This fund will equally enable the government to enhance the Syrian people’s enduranceand stability at home, through organizing a conference of Syrian businessmen who support the Syrian people.
The government suspended the employees’ salaries on August 7, and considered their work voluntary, without any financial dues starting from the beginning of this month. The employees will bepaid a monthly reward according to the available resources, and according to the number of working hours of each employee.
“Enab Baladi is trying to understand the reasons that led the interim government to take such a decision, by talking to officials in charge of supervising financial and economic matters, and how the suspension of salaries will be reflected in the completion of planned projects inside Syria.
“Credit Fund” Stops Support
The credit fund had been set up by Syria’s friendly nations and includes 14 countries, each of which donates 10 million dollars annually.
All its projects are executed inside Syria and it is not entitled to spend expenses outside.
It deals with government institutions and directorates, local councils in governorates and government-approved bodies, but does not directly grant funds to the government.
The employees’ salaries in the interim government are divided into two parts: the first is to supporters of the projects, such as seed multiplication, Syrian Public Establishment for Grain, health directorates, education directorate, and agricultural statistics, The General Organization for Fodder, in addition to teachers, who have the largest part, since they are more than 23 thousand.
The second part is the ministers and the administrative staff, which are 250 employees. They are not supported by any state or organization. Therefore, their salaries are not affected by the organizations’ suspension. They are related to government revenues from certificates of origin, according to the minister of financial and economic affairs, Abdullah al-Hammadi.
Al-Hammadi added in an interview with Enab Baladi that the decision to suspend the employees’ salaries was issued after some of the supporting parties informed the interim government of suspending its support inside Syria as a “credit fund”. He pointed out “We are trying to communicate with them to restore support, but in vain.”
He stressed that this was directly reflected on some of the supporting organizations, whose work has been suspended, and had an impact on the projects inside, such as the General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade and the General Organization for Fodder.
While the assistant of the minister of finance in the interim government, Abdul Hakim al-Masri, rendered the issuance of the decision to the lack of financial liquidity, considering that employees have the right to sue those who have appointed them to claim their entitlements, so the new decision came as a way to reduce this complaint to officials.
“Basically, the support of the interim government is limited to the lack of the government own resources, and sometimes it is sufficient to pay salaries, and at other times it is not,” he told Enab Baladi.
Lack of Financial liquidity is not new
In an investigation conducted by Enab Baladi in April 2016, during the presidency of Ahmed Tu’mah, he pointed out that the financial resources were completely cut off, prompting some staff to work in other local and foreign organizations or continue to work for free and without pay.
The lack of support at the time resulted in the Government building in the Turkish city of Gaziantep being rented after the contract ended and the Government moved to a new building on the outskirts of the city, after it was granted a one-time payment from the Turkish government, . This covered the cost of transporting furniture and rent of the building and all equipment.
“Enab Baladi communicated with the current Prime Minister, Jawad Abu Hatab, but he refused to respond, and referred to the distortion of his statements by some media in the past days, stressing that all his statements in the coming days will be officially issued by his office.
“All the employees are continuing their work even voluntarily,” Assistant of Minister of Finance Abdul Hakim Al Masri said. “We will not leave it that way, but until there is financial liquidity, we will pay the salaries as bonuses equivalent to the monthly salary.”
He explained that “the employees are understanding about the matter and are aware of the government and the liquidity’s situation. The salary is actually not enough and it only covers their expenses.” He stressed that “things will get better and salaries will not permanently stop.”
Hammadi also stressed that “Workers who wish to continue to work will get their salaries when financial support is received.”
Given the situation of the interim Government over the past years, the vision is clear that there is no self-sustaining economic fund on which the government would depend in its own expenditures. In addition, its own long-term resources are limited.
According to Masry, “the government had been receiving a part of the support from the Syrian National Coalition or from some countries (…) This is not enough, and there are some self-resources such as customs duties and trade with Turkey, and certificates of agricultural origin, but the government cannot rely on them.” He pointed that “there is no authority that has been continuously supporting the interim government since a long f time ago.”
He added that the projects that have currently started could not be stopped until they are finished under agreements with the organizations.
Nevertheless, the interim government is currently seeking to develop its own resources. It has established a financial directorate in Daraa and has set up steps to collect tax and fees from citizens, in conjunction with the tension-easing agreement and calmness which the region has been witnessing. In addition, it communicates with governments and authorities to secure the financial support which would help to establish production projects.
In a previous interview with Abu Hatab, he said that there are ongoing talks with the Turkish government, to manage the border passages within the international assets by the government.
He added that the talks are ongoing for the process of managing the passages, through the interim government that is represented in the Ministry of the Interior and the Immigration and Passports Department. He pointed out that the government has suggested that it would manage all the passages and not one crossing in itself. He also noted that the dialogue with the Turks comes in parallel with talks with the factions that manage the crossings’ matters.
Abu Hatab’s statement came before Hayʼat Tahrir al-Sham (Organization for the Liberation of the Levant) took control over Bab al-Hawa Crossing Border, the only crossing of Idlib Governorate. This organization refuses to coordinate with the interim government, and Turkey classifies it as a “terrorist organization.”
What about EU projects?
In early June 2017, the delegation of the Syrian National Coalition and the interim government met with Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in Brussels. Abu Hatab said that the meeting “was very important in terms of supporting the interim government and supporting its human resources and projects.”
Abu Hatab explained that there are ongoing projects with the European Union, which are: education, health, agriculture, interior and documentation file and providing identity papers, identity cards and travel documents, as well as empowering local councils to manage the liberated areas.
Concerning the developments of the announced ongoing projects with the support of the European Union, the Prime Minister’s Assistant Hammadi said that “so far, we have not yet received any response from the European Union.” He stressed that they are still ongoing.
Hammadi denied any connection between the financial chaos which the Syrian National Coalition witnessed in the past few days, and the circumstances which the government is experiencing, and this was after news of the suspension of a financial support line from National Coalition to the government.
Concerning the recent analysis of economists about support cutting and rendering it tothe fact that the government’s offices were useless and do not hold control of its projects, , Hammadi argued that . that these analyzes hide the truth. Indeed, the government has been able to manage and coordinate the entry of 30 million dollars over the past six months.”
The government’s operating expenses, ministries, directorates, institutions and salaries of its employees did not exceed 2% of the full amount of money during the six months, which means about 600 thousand dollars according to Hammadi.
The government’s branches in the Syrian interior:
Daraa: Ministry of Local Administration, Ministers’ Assistants, Grain Foundation, Seed Breeding, faculties of Aleppo University and teacher training institutes.
Damascus: Deputy Prime Minister, Directorates of Health, Education and Agriculture, faculties of Aleppo University, Medical Institutes, Management, Computer and Teacher Training.
Homs: Minister of Agriculture, Directorates of Education, Health and Agriculture, Grain and Seed Multiplication Foundation, medical, engineering and teacher training faculties and institutes.
Idlib: Ministry of Health and Higher Education, Ministry of the Interior, the Directories of Health, Education, Agriculture, Civil and Real Estate, six faculties and medical institutes, Administration, Computer and Teacher Training. In addition to the Grain and Seed Multiplication Foundation, the Livestock Foundation, the Feed Establishment and the Agricultural Statistics Directorate.
The western countryside of Aleppo: Ministry of Services, Ministry of Education, Aleppo University, Teacher Training Institutes, Grain Foundation Branch, Seed Breeding Establishment, Health, Education and Agriculture Directorates, and Civil Status Register.
The north-eastern countryside of Aleppo: The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Grain Foundation, the Seed Breeding Branch, the Livestock Foundation, the Health and Education Directorates, the Directorate of Services and Communications, the faculties of Aleppo University, and Teacher Training Institutes.