Assad’s Government Aims at Accelerating the Economic Cycle in Ghouta
The government of the Syrian regime is trying to speed up the wheel of reform, relating to the infrastructure of Damascus’ eastern Ghouta and other areas in rural Damascus, which the regime has lately controlled, seeking to start up the industrial facilities and re-energize the agricultural sector.
The Ministry of Industry has formed a central committee and two secondary ones in Damascus governorate and its countryside as to communicate with the industrial and artisan enterprises to address the difficulties hindering the reactivation of their facilities, according to what al-Watan newspaper, a regime affiliate media outlet, has reported on June 28.
The central committee consists of the Deputy Minister of Industry Nedal Falouh, as its director, and other two members, the head of the Chamber of Industry in Damascus and Its Countryside and the head of the Industrial Investment Department in the Ministry of Industry. This committee is to supervise the work of the secondary ones, which specialize in communicating with the industrialist facilities’ owners in Damascus and its countryside.
“Tishreen” newspaper, a government outlet, quoted statistics collected by the Ministry of Industry concerning the size of damaged that afflicted its facilities in Ghouta. The industrial companies’ direct lost, according to the carrying value estimations of the Ministry of Industry and the General Establishment for Chemical Industries, is 81 billion Syrian pounds, while reconstructing these facilities and reactivating them demands the double of that amount, keeping in mind the current acknowledged costs based on the present exchange rates.
“Safe Zones”: Do They Encourage Investment?
Assad’s forces managed to control the overall area adjacent to the capital Damascus early last May, giving, thus, both investors, migrant capital and competencies the courage to return according to Sinan Deeb’s, an economic expert, statement to the Russian agency “Sputnik”.
Deeb pointed out that the reactivation of the agricultural sector, crafts and profession which proliferated in the area, such as home furniture industry and others, will lead to a marked economic difference.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, the economic analyst Younes Kareem said that rural Damascus plays an important role in the reenergization of the Syrian regime’s economy at a theoretical level. However, at a practical level, the economic wheel is frozen in Syria generally and in Ghouta particularly, and it cannot be put on track in the short term.
Kareem referred to the statement of the Governor of the Central Bank Duriad Dergham, who said that he will offer loans only to those who stood by the Syrian regime, pointing to the merchants who supported the regime financially and explaining that this segment’s work is limited to entertainment industry which cannot take place in eastern Ghouta.
Economic Revenues that Ghouta Stand for
The Eastern Ghouta constitutes the largest agricultural area near the capital Damascus, supported by a set of elements, on top of which are it geography and type of production, which make it the capital’s food reservoir, as it plays a major role in steering the economic wheel.
Ghouta’s agricultural products are known for their diversity, especially fruits and vegetables, which are used in the field of food industry, the area is also famous for. This is confirmed by the Technical Advisor of the Agricultural Chambers Union, Abdulrahamn Qurunfuleh in an interview with the Russian news agency “Sputnik”. He pointed out that activating the agricultural sector in Ghouta will adequately provide Damascus with the needed commodities and will contribute in decreasing the price ratios gradually.
Qurunfuleh said that any simple decrease in prices and the budget will have a positive effect on the citizens’ daily life, expecting that the decrease in the prices of food raw materials will reach a 20% at least.
Nonetheless, Younes Kareem told Enab Baladi the areas that were held by the opposition would not be easily activated for several reasons, the most prominent of which are the massive damage in infrastructure and the serious lack of labor force, especially on the farms that used to work in the field of food industries in rural Damascus, saying that workforce is absent due to displacement.
Kareem believes that the 20% is a “fake number”, since the Central Bank does not have a reservoir to provide loans or encourage the production movement and small enterprises.
From Eastern Ghouta, 185 citizens were displaced following the Syrian regime’s and allies’ military operations against the area, which ended with a reconciliation deal, signed between last March 20 and April 7.
The internally displaced people were divided into 144 thousand people based in Damascus and its surrounding, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense figures, while others headed to Idlib in Northern Syria, most of whom are troops who fought for the opposition factions, legally persecuted by the Syrian regime or demanded for mandatory military service.
Successive Plans and a New Organizational Structure
The Syrian regime’s government has started working on new organizational schemes for Ghouta, in addition to its efforts in the rehabilitation of government facilities and plants, as to take the economic cycle back to its position prior to 2011.
The Rural Damascus Provincial Department has announced that the public-sector companies will soon start working on road and bridge rehabilitation, providing each area with 100 to 150 million Syrian pounds to support the municipalities.
In a former service-concerned meeting, the Minister of Local Administration Hussian Makhlouf said that the upholstery facilities inside Ghouta will be rehabilitated, especially those in the area of Saqba, central sector of Ghouta, which formed the main source of furniture to the other Syrian areas according to the Russian news Agency.
According to Kareem, the Syrian regime represents a community in need of support, as it lives through aid provided by allies and foreign fighters, and these factors cannot form an economic pillar that gives an economic added value to the state, pointing out that “the regime is unable to implement any real project on ground, except for a few real-estate projects by some of its affiliate business men, such as Rami Makhlouf and the like. This would not make a difference neither to the regime nor to the state.”
Younes also said that the regime’s entire effort lies on the area’s reconstruction at a real-estate level to attract foreign investments to Syria, Damascus in particular.
But still dozens of obstacles hinder the rapid economic cycle which the Syrian regime anticipates, especially in the shadow of the absent labor force and the shortage in productive youth following the displacement movements and mandatory military recruitment, as well as the migration of thousands to neighbor countries.
There is also the destruction which the battles have inflicted upon the eastern countryside of Damascus, which constitute the principal challenge at a time where the regime majorly depends on the assistance of its friends, Russia and dozens of capitals on its side to work rapidly on the rural parts of Damascus and win an economic battle in addition to the political battle it is undergoing.