The black comedy continues

Economies should be steered carefully and surely, just like
steering a ship, not with the sharp and sudden turns of a motorcycle!

A simple yet perfectly-correct rule that has escaped the
mind of whoever (inside the government or beyond the government) came up with
the ingenious decision of suspending the import of all products and materials
whose customs exceed the 5% threshold!

Painful decision after painful decision, all the successive Syrians
governments have proved that they are not capable of comprehending the meaning of
running a state’s economy and the scale the effects of even the simplest of
decisions can have on the livelihoods of millions of citizens.

From quadrupling  fuel
prices overnight to slashing interest rates by 9% -overnight also- to the
recent sudden and immediate ban of imports; all are critical and life-quality-changing
decisions taken recklessly and without studying there social effects and there
short and long term consequences on how the Syrian economy’s wheel is spinning.

As a result of this reckless decision; prices of most types
of food, clothes and tools have sky-rocketed, traders and sellers are stalking
goods instead of selling them hoping to be able to sell them later at higher
prices and the average consumer is dumbfounded by this out-of-nowhere blow!

 

Misfortunes come together

Syria is witnessing a tsunami of misfortunes these days, its
tourism and services sectors have been all but wiped out due to the civil and
political unrest throughout the last 6 months. The European and American
sanctions have effectively stopped all its oil exports which together with
tourism are the source of some 90% of its hard currency income and the employer
of some 33% of its working force.

To make things even worse, early this week the Syrian the Minister
of Economy driven by overwhelming determination (probably form a higher
authority) to guard the country’s precious 17 billion dollars of foreign
currency reserve has issued a very sudden and surprising decision to ‘temporarily’
suspend importing cars and all materials and products with +5% customs,  which means, effectively,  that Syria will never import anything except
some materials which are considered essential  for life and for main industries, the list of
the 51 materials exempted from this ban or suspension can be found in another
space of this article.

According to the Minister the decision will help to revive
the Syrian industrial sector and will support the successful steps towards reform
and development, and –most importantly- it will preserve the foreign currency
reserve.

Al-Shaar, the Syrian Minister of Economy said: “the decision
aims at preserving Syria’s reserves of foreign currencies and using those
reserves in meeting the citizens’ basic needs for as long time as possible.” According
to the Governor of Central Bank of Syria, we have some 18 billion$ of reserves,
and during the last six months Syria has spent about 1.7 billion $, which means
that we still have some 16-17 billion $, which should be fine by all standards.
This latest procedure, however, shows the opposite.

Back to the Minister of Economy who tried to assure uss that
Syria can withstand and maintain such suspension because we have the necessary fundamentals
for self-development, he assured us that Industrialists and traders in Syria can successfully
deal with the suspension because they have the means to create
solutions and to produce everything the Syrian market needs, adding that “If
we saw that the negatives of the decision are more than its positives, we’ll take
the appropriate decision. The Ministry takes its decisions on the basis of the
citizens’ interests.”

He pointed out that the list of materials exempted from the
decision, which includes 51 materials, is not final and could be adjusted
according to the national needs.The minister added that this resolution is protective,
and temporary, it will contribute to the
revitalization of the production process by giving the opportunity for factories to produce goods that stop the importation of similar products,
while creating new jobs or re-employing workers in some closed factories.

Sounds optimistic, but, deep inside, everyone know that such
decisions cannot be anything but harmful and damaging for any economy on the
long run. According to many industrialists and traders, the list of materials
is Improvisational
and needs serious discussing and no one can work with the few and limited
materials in the list. It will result in non-controlled rising in market prices.
From his behalf,
the minister stressed that “sometimes prices rise because of international
causes and that is normal, but some traders try to raise prices just to get
more profit. Syria is experiencing a crisis that forces us to sacrifice and we
must give Syria all what it needs to stand and rise again.” The Minister
concluded by saying that this decision was taken because of the current crisis,
adding that “In every decision, there will be beneficiaries and sides
which are damaged by it… The standard is to increase positives and limit negatives”.

This shocking decision caused a barrage of criticisms and debates among people, traders
and industrialists and between them and the government so much so that the Cabinet
called upon the ‘Ministry of Economy and Trade’ to take steps to monitor the
market prices to prevent the exploitation of the temporary suspension of
importation, particularly the prices of food and locally-produced products, in
addition to reconsidering some articles in the suspension decision to achieve
national interest.

Traders, industrialists and people on the streets have a
very different point of view that does not share the optimism of the
government:

Khaled Ajaj a trader said: “The decision to suspend the importation of
certain materials is a good
decision, but it should ban the
goods that we could produce, we must
consider the products that we can’t produce locally, and they should decrease
the customs’ costs to give the chance for modern industries to take the first
step. By the way, I think that the sudden way that the ministry of economy
issued such a decision is wrong, they should have discussed it with the traders
and industry chambers and activate it gradually to give those affected with the
decision the time to take appropriate steps”. Some people compared the decision
to similar decision in china in the era of Mao Tse-tung and said that while it will
be great if Syria had the chance to become like china, however “we can’t
because we need money, we need job opportunities. The miracles’ time is over;
we are in the 21st century we can’t go back in time 30 years. This
decision will take Syria back to the 80s and late 70s no one can adapt with it
ever,” Sameer Tawel, student said.

Ammar Kamel, unemployed, said: “CHINA!  What are you talking about? Mao Tse-tung used
to spend his life wearing work clothes; he forced all his team to do like him.
He used a bicycle to move from place to another. He accused and sentenced his
wife due to her corruption. Such decision needs pure souls and good society; it
needs years of studies and discussing”.

Corruption
is the plaque that damages every successful project in Syria, every one say that
we are fighting corruption but it takes time, too much stupid time, Samaher
Bayazeed, 28 years old engineer is a supporter of the decision and regards it
as “positive and good it will provides the basic needs of Syrians and
will save the Syrian treasury and reserves of foreign currencies, I’m supporting
it to the end”. According to Samaher, it –the decision – will help Syria while,
according to the traders: “The decision is nothing but a disaster for the
importers and traders in Syria because: 1- it is a sudden and shocking decision,
why didn’t they decide to activate it starting from 1/1/2012 for example? 2-How would traders and importers
take back the money that has been paid to foreign companies? Have they thought of this?! We need Syrians
to be more close together in such circumstances
but such decisions will damage all what we are doing to control the
situation in Syria.” Abed El-rahman Sa’aid, an exporting-importing company
owner said.

The Minister tried his best to get public support for his
decision but in vain, someone said sarcastically: “I support this decision
although I know it is the worst decision that could be made ever, but I support
it as the second strike in our war on Europe – the first strike was when we
erased them from the global map and I am very optimistic about a third strike
soon!”

The optimistic people rely on the ‘wisely-chosen’ new government;
they say that the new government has the right to prove itself. We are facing
very special circumstances which impose different solutions which we should
support to the end: “Syria is a great country, we had experienced a similar situation
before and we managed to go over it and we will now, this decision is worthy to
try it, others should be patients” Joumana Ma’alouf said.

The unbelievable decision has shocked the economists in
Syria, they couldn’t believe that such a step could be studied for more than
four or five minutes because “it doesn’t help the economy, as we studied it in universities
and from the long experience in the economic domain this is the first time that
I witness something like that! How could they compensate the loss of the state’s
treasury? This will decrease the taxes
and customs duties, this will cause a big
deficiency to the state’s treasury and to the merchants and it will force some
merchants to smuggle foreign currencies out of Syria, it will cause many bankruptcies among Syrian merchants and industrialists.”

Surprisingly, several medias have reported the same Minister
of Economy saying that: “He refused the decision from the very beginning!” A
weird and baffling statement from the same minister who has spent the whole
last week defending and explaining the benefits of the decision! When the cabinet
asked him to reconsider the decision he told Al-Baath newspaper, that he wasn’t so
optimistic about the decision and so he opposed its issuance! And the question
is: If the Minister, himself, opposed the issuance why has he issued it? It
seems that the government is trying to withdraw this decision and replace it
with allowing the importation of goods but without being involved in financing these imports: “If we can’t use these reserves now when are we supposed to
use it? Europe refuses our oil to exert pressure on us, I can’t believe that
our reaction was to stop dealing with 90% of the world! They tried to trap us
and they failed, but by this decision we are surrounding and trapping ourselves!”
S A.O, an economic expert commented.

The
battle is still on, each team is trying to prove that he is right but in such
kind of battles the largest losers are the people because they are the end users
of everything and the most affected by the decisions of the government, Nassar
Ramadan, a car dealer and owner of clothes’ factory said : “this is crazy, cant
they see what is going on the streets? Aren’t they Syrian? This decision is completely
wrong, it will cause a big disaster, everyone in Syria knows that Damascus and
Aleppo are full of merchants, industrials and importers; this will destroy the
society in Aleppo, I am afraid that this decision will push Aleppo to get
involved in the political dilemma in Syria, people of Aleppo has proved their
loyalty to the regime but after this decision everything is possible! They are
making fun of us, when we were in the meeting of the chamber of commerce of
Aleppo there was a big fight, merchants started to accuse each other of treason!
this is unacceptable. I believe that such decisions were made just to help and
to serve a specific and limited will-known people.”

“There
is a say: ‘hungry people will do anything’, Syrians are going to be hungry
because of this decision, everybody know that Syria has the suitable resources
to avoid hunger but it never had the right strategy to stop the greedy merchants.
They will eat us alive, the merchants I mean, once the Ministry of Economic
issued this decision they raised the prices, do you believe that if you want to
buy one pack of eggs you should pay 220 SYP?! the price was 115 in Ramadan,
people will not be able to pay for anything except bread and this is dangerous,
I can’t believe that the one who made such a decision is Syrian or lives in
Syria” Ahmad Da, business man.

Due
to the decision, many or let us say millions of voices shouted: We cannot
accept this, so the government asked the ministry to reconsider the merits of
it. The ministry started to study the request and to deal with the new circumstances,
which means that they didn’t expect such a reaction of the people. So, did they
study this decision before issuing it? Or was it the result of a 5-minute brainstorming
session? Does the principle ‘the end justifies the means’ work when it comes
to deciding the destiny of 23 million people. Such a decision is just like when
we treat a patient with cancer by using radiation medicine, we can heal him
from cancer, but we surely will destroy the rest of his body!

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One thought on “The black comedy continues

  1. Really sad situation in Syria. Admirable how much you love your country and how much you feel worried about its present and future.The article is not only informal, but also a good economical and political analyse. Congratulations!

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