Will President Assad hold his nerve?
The Economist on market reforms in Syria:
SYRIA has been edging away from a centrally planned socialist economy to a “social market” one. “The last five years have been about deconstructing the socialist ideology in favour of the market,” says an adviser to the government. “The next five will be about implementing it.” That means big cuts in subsidies and painful belt-tightening for Syria’s far-from-opulent masses. But will the government, seeing unrest simmer in the region in the wake of Tunisia’s upheaval, hold its nerve?Read it all.
The proposed changes risk breaking the social contract long upheld by President Bashar Assad’s Baath party. The old deal meant low wages and secure jobs, while providing life’s basics, such as food and fuel, very cheaply. The new plan envisages raising cash by issuing government bonds and soliciting foreign investment to the tune—it is hoped—of $55 billion. As subsidies shrink, the price of fuel, electricity, water, transport and food should rise to market levels.
Fearing unrest, the government recently wobbled. It announced a 72% rise in heating-oil benefits for public workers and froze the price of electricity.