Premier Khamis discusses state of the economy with economic academics

Damascus, SANA – Prime Minister Imad Khamis on Sunday met economy professors at Damascus University, deans of economy faculties at Syrian universities, and economic journalists.

During the meeting, which was held at Damascus University, Khamis reviewed the government’s plan for improving the economy, saying that there’s an economic team working to confront the challenges facing the economic sector and improving production.

The Premier said that human development is being addressed by restructuring the university, with plans to expand by opening new faculties and departments.

Regarding the agriculture sector, Khamis said the government is planning to expand rural and family farming, noting that the requirements for cultivating 55,000 more hectares than the area included in the current plans, adding that the government is also providing subsidies for lucrative crops and raising the prices for purchasing crops from farmers, in addition to facilitating loans for farmers.

He also said that there are agricultural investment projects currently being carried out whose effect will become apparent in the next few months.

As for increasing salaries, the Premier said that this will be a natural result of achieving economic development.

Regarding the industrial sector, Khamis said restoring the production cycle is one of the government’s top priorities, noting that there’s a list of 40 factories that are set to become operational soon.

He said that the government took steps to facilitate the work of the private sector, noting that there are private industrial sectors that restarted work in several areas and work us underway to provide the needs for restarting others soon, adding that thanks to the steps taken by the government, around 400 facilities resumed production during a period of 8 months.

In terms of commerce, Khamis said that the government provided facilitations for importing and exporting, particularly importing materials that have priority in terms of the needs of the state, citizens, and supplies for the production process.

As for the issue of corruption, the Premier said that a number of files related to this are being addressed including bad debts which amount to SYP 286 billion, and that progress is being made in recovering these funds, adding that the loaning policy which will be launched within the next few days will support development and address old loopholes.

Regarding the energy sector, Khamis said that this is a top priority for the government and that several agreements were signed to restore the petroleum infrastructure along with long-term contracts to procure petroleum products.

The participants in the meeting posed a number of suggestions and queries, including reassigning a Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and having a mechanism for supervision, to which Khamis responded by asserting that several state establishments are carrying out the task of supervision, adding “we will not allow the corrupt and those with limited vision to undermine governmental work.”

Discussions focused on the need to improve citizens’ living conditions, controlling prices, preventing monopolies of essential supplies, funding projects, resolving transport issues, the economic feasibility of small and micro projects, and forming crises-management teams.

Addressing some of the issues that were raised, Finance Minister Ma’moun Hamdan said that the government took several steps to improve living conditions, such as revamping positive intervention establishments.

Hamdan noted that the government is still paying the salaries of workers in factories that are currently inoperative, and purchased wheat crops from farmers at a good price directly without mediators.

For his part, Higher Education Minister Atef Naddaf said that the “My Project” initiative launched in 2011 by the Syria Trust for Development was a success in all provinces in terms of funding small projects, creating many job opportunities.

In turn, Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammad Samer al-Khalil affirmed that public-private partnership is now a necessity and not an option for improving the state of the economy, adding that the government’s support for production compliments partnership and this was addressed by forming a number of funds.

Hazem Sabbagh

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