No peace, no rebuilding for ‘broken’ Syria, say analysts

Syrian civilians search for survivors in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region. The seven-year war has cost the Syrian economy $226 billion and caused untold damage to the country’s infrastructure. (AFP)
Updated 01 March 2018

No peace, no rebuilding for ‘broken’ Syria, say analysts

LONDON: Rebuilding of Syria’s shattered economy and infrastructure “will not happen any time soon,” analysts have warned, saying a political solution is needed in the war-torn country before reconstruction can begin.
During a conference on Demystifying the Syrian Conflict at Chatham House on Monday, Jihad Yazigi, founder and editor of The Syria Report website, said: “There is no such thing as reconstruction (in Syria) today … and there are no expectations of it starting any time soon.”
“The state is broke.”
Speaking during a panel discussion on “regime area dynamics,” Yazigi said that 2017 was the first year since the start of the uprising that the Syrian economy has witnessed growth, but the country remains in “extremely bad shape.”
According to the World Bank, the seven-year war has cost the Syrian economy $226 billion and caused untold damage to the country’s infrastructure. More than 400,000 people have been killed and 27 percent of homes destroyed, along with an estimated 50 percent of medical and education facilities.
The cost of rebuilding will run into the hundreds of billions, with some estimates suggesting a figure of $1 trillion, but until a resolution is reached between the many warring parties, reconstruction remains on hold.
Foreign powers, including Russia and Iran, which have gained the upper hand through the regime’s victories, are among those angling for the spoils. Development plans from both countries, however, are more likely to prioritize a return on political and military support than meeting the pressing needs of Syria’s disenfranchised population.
Potential projects discussed include a railway line to transport phosphate from Syrian mines, which Russia has secured the rights to develop, while a loan of $1 billion from Iran to the Syrian government is being prepared on condition that it is used solely for the purchase of Iranian goods, the news website Syria Deeply claimed.
Sinan Hatahet, senior associate fellow at Al Sharq Forum and Omran for Strategic Studies, outlined the increasing influence of Russia and Iran, both on the Syrian state and on the ground through militias loyal to foreign forces. “The more it seems like the war is over, the harder it will get for the regime to manage this,” he said.
Emphasizing the challenges to Syrian stability posed by these key foreign allies, Yazigi said that balancing their competing demands would be a priority for the regime after the conflict ended.
“Another priority will be enabling regime cronies to capitalize … beyond these two priorities, I don’t see any other reconstruction strategies in Syria,” he said.
With hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed and more than half the country’s prewar population displaced by the conflict, there is an urgent need for new housing. But, instead, the government has announced plans for Basatin Al-Razi, a glitzy real estate project in Damascus, where thousands of families have been evicted to make way for high-rise condos, park boulevards and shopping malls — facilities that will cater to the tiny segment of the Syrian population able to afford them while lining the pockets of wealthy investors.


Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.