Panel Session 1: Economic Outlook for Syria

Wafic Said
Said Holdings Limited


Mr Wafic Said’s Speaking Notes

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Welcome to this first panel session of the Conference. We are tasked with setting the scene for our two days of discussions by looking at the general Economic and Investment Outlook for Syria. 

It is my great pleasure to be moderating our panel of distinguished speakers - a pleasure because, when I performed a similar role at the first meeting of this conference two and a half years ago, the historic nature of our discussions struck me forcefully. 

It was truly inspiring to witness how frankly and publicly some sensitive issues were discussed by all our participants, from the government as well as the private sector, from Syria as well as from abroad. 

This openness testified to the Government’s determined commitment to reform, under the leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad. It also testified to the desire of many individuals, businesses and institutions inside and outside Syria to see the Syrian economy grow and prosper.

I am sure we can expect equal frankness from our speakers today.

Back in 2004 we discussed the very positive economic reforms that the Syrian Government had embarked upon.  Since then, a multitude of further reforms have been added and the private sector has responded encouragingly. 

For example, I remember referring in 2004 to the first two private banks that had opened up in Syria.  By the end of this year, that number is expected to have risen to ten, more than any of us would have predicted only two years ago. 

The new Five-Year Plan is concrete and compelling evidence of the continuing commitment of the Government to reform – a commitment that is underpinned by an understanding of the challenges facing Syria’s economy.  Not least among these challenges is Syria’s transition - short of the discovery of new oil reserves – from net oil exporter to net importer by around 2010.  

It is not too dramatic to say that Syria is in a race against time to reform fast enough to meet the challenges it faces.

I look forward eagerly to hearing our speakers’ views on the outlook for Syria:

  • Has the pace of reform been fast enough?
  • Have measures to implement reform been strong and complete enough?
  • How can confidence in the sustainability of reform be maintained?

The problem with being the first moderator is that I am expected to set a good example and keep to time, so I implore my distinguished panel members to make their presentations as short as possible.

After 6 minutes I shall start to look nervously at my watch and I have been reliably informed that after 8 minutes the microphone will mysteriously stop working.  When all the panel members have spoken I shall then open our discussion to the floor.  I shall keep my introductions very brief since the impressive biographies of all our speakers are included in your conference folders.

Our first speaker is David Hale, founding Chairman of Hale Advisors from Chicago who will give us the American perspective on Syria’s economic and investment outlook. 

Our next speaker is Dr Nabil Sukkar, Managing Director of The Syrian Consulting Bureau for Development and Investment which he founded in Damascus in 1991. 

I am now pleased to introduce Mrs Jane Macpherson.  Mrs Macpherson has been Head of the Middle East Division of the European Investment Bank since 2001. 

Mr Guy Gantley, our next speaker, is the Middle East/North Africa Economic Adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. 

And our final speaker is Mr Samir Aita.  Mr Aita is General Manager of A Concept Mafhoum, General Manager of the Arab edition of Le Monde Diplomatique and consultant for a number of international bodies including the European Commission, the World Bank and UNDP.

I think you will all agree that these have been extremely stimulating presentations, setting the scene for our discussions over the next two days.  It has been fascinating to hear the perspective of experts from different countries and with different viewpoints.  I should now like to open up the debate to the floor and would welcome questions – not statements, on the subject of this session only, please.  Before your question, please give your name and position, the name of the panel member to whom you are addressing your question and keep your intervention short to enable as many people as possible to participate.

Other Speeches

Plantium Sponsor:
Said Holdings Limited

Gold Sponsors:
BLOM Bank Group
Fouad Takla Company
Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi
Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce
Syria Gulf Bank / Syria Kuwait Insurance Company
Members of the KIPCO Group
MAS Economic Group
Syria Shell Petroleum Development B.V.

Silver Sponsors:
ASSIA Corporate
Al Baraka Group
Sham Bank
Inana Group
International Bank for Trade & Finance
Yazigi & Company
Arab Advertising Organization
Al Iqtissadiya





Bronze Sponsors:
Khwanda Group
The Arab Orient Insurance Company