Developing the East!

In my post at Creative Syria, I highlighted the huge gap in development between the eastern and western parts of Syria. For, despite the fact that most of the wealth of the country tends to be derived from the eastern parts, both in terms of agricultural goods and the petroleum industry, the western parts, where Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia are located, continues to be far more developed and rich, relatively speaking of course, than the eastern parts.

But don’t you worry, for here is our illustrious Prime Minister, Naji Otri, your usual run-of-the-mill Baathist moron, announcing that he has now formed a special team to help develop the eastern parts. After three years of hard work on part of so many well-intentioned people, and not so-well intentioned people of course, we now have a team that will be charged with actually working on the issue at hand.

How much time will this team need to actually come up with a plan of action in this regard I wonder? And how fast will it take for this plan to get to the point where it is assiduously mismanaged? Methinks mismanagement will begin long before an actual plan is formed.

But then that’s just old cynical me speaking, you may prefer to pay more attention to those rational moderate realistic voices out there, who continue to seek promises of reform in a pile of lion-manure.

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How did Syria perform over the past 40 years compared to its neighbors?

Continued commitment to Arab nationalism on part of Syria?s leaders over the last forty years, and while not necessarily fake, served more often to divert people?s attention from the serious lack of internal development and the increasing authoritarian predilections of the regime and its minoritarian character.

Moreover, and this commitment notwithstanding, Syria?s Baathist leaders have consistently failed to establish normal economic and diplomatic relations with their immediate neighbors, including the ?brotherly? states of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, with the brunt of the blame in the latter two cases to be born by the Syria leaders and their seeming inability to accept the independence of these two states.

As for Israel, one should never forget that it was specifically under Baath rule that the Golan Heights were lost. We should also bear in mind that late Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad, for all his alleged foresight, has sought and failed throughout the 90s to get a deal that he could have had way back in 1978.

The Baath regime was also unable to maintain normal ties with most west European countries as well as the United States, with dire economic consequences for the country. Assad?s regional ambitions at the time and his ego as he sought to become an heir to Nasser seemed to have played a major role in this.

On the internal front, the socialist policies of the regime and its nationalization policies served to discourage the country?s commercial elite from investing in the country, with investments and funds getting diverted to Lebanon and Europe. The corruption of the regime and its minoritarian character has also served to set the scene for the various confrontations that took place with the Muslim Brotherhood. The massacre of 20,000 civilians that took place in Hama in 1982 was unforgivable, especially given the limited number of MB fighters involved (200-500, depending on the account, but no more).

Despite early progress with regard to building more schools, hospitals, roads and factories throughout the country, as well as developing the country?s rural areas, the ensuing neglect of the internal scene since the early 80s, as a result of Assad Sr.?s preoccupation with foreign policy, at the expense of everything else, served to offset the early progress.

As a result, Syria, the socialist claims of its leaders notwithstanding, can now boast of:

1) An unemployment rate well above 25%.

2) A population where more than 40 live below poverty line.

3) An inefficient healthcare system.

4) An imploding educational system.

5) A decaying national infrastructure.

6) An increasing gap in development between the Eastern parts (especially areas with Kurdish concentration) and the western parts, despite the fact that Syria?s breadbasket and oil and gas reserves happen to located in the East.

7) Growing sectarian divides, especially with regard to the Sunnis and Alawites.

So, how does Syria?s situation compare to its neighbors? Well, Syria may not witnessed a long civil war as was the case in Lebanon, and was not invaded as a whole, as was the case with Iraq, it does not have a massive foreign debt as is the case with Jordan and Lebanon. But, on the other hand, Syria does not have a peace deal with Israel, as is the case with Jordan and Egypt, which means that there are a lot of Syrian families still waiting to go back to their homes in the Golan and be reunited with their families there. Moreover, Syria is now more isolated than ever, does not receive much foreign aid or direct investments, and its regime is the most corrupt and cruel of all existing Arab regimes.

This is the legacy of the Baath and the Assad regime.

2 thoughts on “Developing the East!

  1. Don,t you think Ammar that the reason for more development is in the western part because most the Syrian population is in the wetern parts of Syria specificly Damas,homs Hama,aleppo,and the coast,the problem with coruption and mismanagment can be prevented by making contracts public .

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