Free Zones ... Key Levers of Economy, Resettlement of National Capital

DAMASCUS, (ST) - The government has worked hard in the past years to create new free zones in some governorates, develop, expand the existing areas, provide a well-developed infrastructure and modernize the laws to keep up with legislations governing the free zones in the world and be able to attract local and foreign investments.

The government also is keen, through its own procedures in the free zones, to ensure investment system that allows entering and leaving of products to these areas without any customs duties.
These areas form basic leverages and support to the national economic growth of many countries which explains that most of the conventions and economic blocs which states seek to set up among themselves.

These areas  are granted, according to Deputy Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, Dr. Hayan Salman, more preferential advantages, including exemption all products from customs duties, even if  a part of them is directed towards the domestic market.

"The free zones can increase exports of technological content and reduce dependence on imports, which leads to improve trade balance, secure foreign exchange, increase cash reserves, improve the balance of payments and treasury revenues and customs duties collected on foreign inputs in the productivity process in addition to running more of the labor force in both of these areas or the surrounding areas, create jobs directly and indirectly, reduce the unemployment rate, increase in per capita income and economic efficiency," Dr. Salman said.

"The free zones play a major role in increasing business investment and resettling of the national capital and enhancing the competitiveness of goods produced nationally, taking into account that the ratio of added value higher or equal to 40 percent of the value of the item according to the r Arab Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force at the beginning of 2005," Dr. Salman added.

According to a report about the results of the work of the General Establishment of Free Zones since the beginning of 2012 until last September of the same year, the value of goods entering and leaving is estimated at 51 billion which represents a retreat from the same period of 2011 and reached 38 percent, which had recorded 118 billion Syrian Pounds
The report shows that the capital invested in this period amounted to $ 712 million with a decline of 11 percent and the number of investors reached to 981with a retreat of 13 percent and the number of foreign companies reached to 76 companies with a decline 5.8 percent while the capital invested for foreign companies amounted $ 88 million, a retreat of 29 percent from the same period in 2011.
The report points out that the decline of these investments was the result of effects of the crisis experienced by the country and the sanctions imposed on it despite the efforts being exerted by the Ministry of Economy in providing facilities and exemptions for investors and exempting investors from interest and penalties.

The General Establishment of Free Zones called for the joint committees to inform  businessmen and investors who have a desire to invest in Syria in general or to  establish private free zones managed by the investor himself that these special zones have full exemption of taxes and fees in addition to the free transfer of capital and profits out of Syria and vice versa with the provision of freedom of technical and specialized labor recruitment, and granting this products in this region a certificate of Syrian origin or an origin of free zone for the manufactured products.
According to Dr. Salman, the expansion in establishing new free zones requires the involvement of the private national sector such as chambers of industry and commerce and making consultations with countries that are linked with economic and trade agreements, such as Iraq and the countries of the Customs Union, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Iran and Latin American countries.
The Deputy Minister pointed out the importance of developing regulations relating to free zones and increasing the areas specialized for this purpose , particularly in the less developed regions, expanding its activities to include aspects of economic work of industry, agriculture and services to turn these areas into centers  that can be supportive of economic takeoff and improving Syrian economic indicators.
He also stressed the need to increase investment rates particularly industrial investments through setting up developed  industrial groups, increasing demand for Syrian raw materials and activating internal demand for goods and services and converting them to industrial goods.

Sh. Kh.

70 Billion Dollar, Syrian economic losses since 2011

According to data of Syrian government, international institutions, and western press economic estimation, that Syria has suffered huge economic losses since march 2011, until early 2013, exceeded 70 Billion US dollar, after 20 month of global war against Syria, the Syrian economy shrank by 25%, and the official price of dollar increased to 79 pounds according to the central bank in early 2013, after it was 47 Syrian pounds, at the beginning of the crisis.

There are two types of losses, one related to the loss of productivity and economic downturn, it valued 20 to 25 billion dollar, and other related to concrete devastation and ruins, which valued 40 to 50 billion dollar, the most prominent aspect was in the tourism sector, which lost about 9 billion dollar, and two billion in remittances, and the rest is as a result of disabling industry, construction, trade, services and agriculture.

Destruction of Syria as a strategic objective

The terrorist groups, and those who are behind them, purposely cripple and hustle the Syrian economy to collapse, and to eliminate any progress element , lest it would rise again, those armed groups destroyed public facilities, institutions, government buildings, factories, airports, and infrastructure of roads, bridges, railways, oil and gas pipelines, schools, and hospitals, They looted everything, houses, factories, shops,  confiscated many machines and vehicles of social services, such as ambulances and cars, they also subjected about 300 medical centers to burning or looting, and targeted about 25 electric stations of high frequency.

A report for the world Health Organization has mentioned that Syria is suffering a severe shortage of medicine, because of the Arab and western blockade, and that oil production fell from 400 thousand barrel per day, to less than half.

In December 2012 the Syrian government said that, about thousand  factories in Aleppo were dismounted and transported to Turkey .

In addition to all these destructions, the Syrian people are suffering blockade and sanctions, imposed on them, since 2004 as part of " law to punish Syria" , and it renews every year, but the economic blockade doubled since 2011, not from the United states and most European Union countries, but also from their brothers the Arab countries.

Inflation and living crisis

The Syrian government has spent billions of dollars from its foreign currency reserves to pay salaries and to support displaced people, and to supply essential materials, but not letting the Syrian currency to collapse. Before the crisis the deficiency in the government treasury, was no more than three to five of domestic product gross, and now it is expected to reach to 10 billion dollar, in 2013, it means that it is more than 17% of domestic product gross.

With the weakness  in currency and declining in the productivity, and the break down in economic cycle, prices index rose in Syria about 50%, these were reflected in the skyrocket in apartment rents, and the prices of materials and goods, many economic sectors entirely or partly stopped, including hospitals, schools, transport, hotels, and many materials could not reach from place to place, because of terrorists and snipers, who were and still spreading every where.

Law for the terrorists

What caused pain and suffering to Syrian people, more than the economy, is their safety, which was a bless in Syria, but now it is lost, it changed to fear and panic, by the armed terrorists, they kidnap the children, the old people, and raping their girls and women, to have ransom, or they will kill them, by sword in execution fields. They have law for themselves in the name of al-shari'a, by fatwa from their masters in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

At last: this is a plan to ruin Syria, it is not a revolution, it is vast destruction to the economy, and to the lovely spirit of the Syrian people, all that is just to serve America, and Israel.

By: Kamal Dib (Lebanese professor living in Canada)

Translated by : Butheina Al nounou

Syria, Russia Keen to Boost Friendship, Economic Cooperation

The governments of Syria and Russia have listed the issue of boosting friendship and cooperation as a top priority, so both sides work keenly to enhance the bilateral relations.

Within this context, the Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammad Zafer Mihbek and the Russian Ambassador to Damascus Azamat Kulmukhametov met recently to discuss means of expanding Syrian-Russian relations, particularly in the economic, trade and investment domains.

Minister Mihbek, who asserted Syria's adherence to enhancing economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, highly appreciated the distinguished role played by the businessmen councils and investors of the two countries in consolidating bilateral ties.

Mihbek referred to the procedures that can be adopted in contribution to developing trade and economic relations with Russia in particular and with other countries of the(BRICS) group in general.

He stressed the necessity of establishing a Syriaى-Russian trade zone, taking part in economic exhibitions held in Russia, dealing with the national currencies of friendly countries and establishing permanent trade centers in these countries to promote cooperation.

Mihbek underscored the importance of carrying out Russian industrial and investment projects in Syria , adopting the barter system between Syria and Russia and sparing no effort to implement the agreement signed between the two countries on establishing a joint center for geopolitical, trade, economic, scientific, technical and financial cooperation.

The importance of exchanging visits between Syria and Russia so as to promote joint trade and economic relations was also stressed.

For his part, the Russian Ambassador expressed his country's desire to consolidate cooperation with Syria in all fields, asserting the importance of the joint Syrian- Russian committee's meetings in this regard.

 Kulmukhametov underlined both countries’ efforts to sign a free trade agreement between Syria and the states of the Customs Federation (CF) including Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

During their meeting, Mihbik and Kulmukhametov also discussed the issue of reactivating the two embassies’ activities mainly adopting a commerce attaché at the Syrian embassy in Moscow in the service of further cooperation.

Rawaa Ghanam

Plan to Establish National Company to Manage Tourist Establishments

In a meeting held recently with representatives of trade and vocational unions, Tourism Minister Hala Al-Nasser said that the ministry intends to establish a national company for managing the Tourism Ministry's establishments and hotels, which had been managed by foreign companies before, but needs national investors who are capable of covering the financial expenses of the project.

Al-Nasser indicated that the ministry received a number of bids by investors, but it hopes that its partner would hopefully be one of the aforementioned unions in order to contribute to best management and protection of the ministry's establishments.

She underscored the importance of bolstering cooperation between the ministry and the vocational unions in benefitting from the qualified national expertise and skills with the purpose of alleviate the impacts of the ongoing crisis on the tourism sector.

Al-Nasser expressed the ministry's keenness on employing local investments to enhance the tourism sector and on providing good tourism services, as possible as it can, under the extraordinary circumstances Syria has been facing.

She called for establishing new tourism establishments and projects on strong bases and revising the contracts signed with foreign companies.

For his part, Gheyath Al- Farah, Chief of the Tourist Projects Directorate at the Tourism Ministry reviewed some of the ministry's projects, which are ready for tourism investment in different Syrian provinces, and discussed their estimated value and implementation period.

Representatives of the trade and vocational unions highly appreciated cooperation between their unions and the Tourism Ministry to discuss the economic benefits of the submitted investment projects to reactivate the tourism sector.

Rawaa Ghanam 

Displaced citizens' needs 'available', says al-Halqi

DAMASCUS,(ST)_ Prime Minister said on Monday that the current extraordinary stage in the country necessitates cooperation of all Syrian people.

Dr. Wael al-Halqi stressed that the government's top priority is to offer all forms of support to the citizens who forced to flee their homes due to the armed terrorist groups' acts, according to SANA.

The forms of support, as al-Halqi said, includes medical and food aid, not to mention shelters to all displaced citizens.

He restated availability of all items to meet displaced citizens' requirements.

In a meeting with Head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Organization, Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Attar, the premier noted importance of integrated role between the organization, the ministry and civil society to lend displaced citizens a helping hand.

Al-Halqi also cited the organization's positive and active role in offering all kinds of humanitarian aid.

Talking about outcomes of the political plan-committee's meetings, the PM said: "the outcomes are positive", expressing optimism for the future that would guarantee the restoration of security and stability across Syria besides tolerance among citizens to start the process of reconstruction.

The ministerial committee was recently formed to follow up the implementation of the political plan outlined by President Bashar Al-Assad to resolve the crisis in Syria.

For his part, Dr. al-Attar pointed out the government's strong support for the organization, stressing that the future plan is to provide displaced citizens inside Syria and abroad with all forms of medical and humanitarian services until they return their homes in the near future.

The meeting attended by State Minister of Syrian Arab Red Crescent Affairs also dealt with means of improving the organization's work.