Tags: ML | Syria | Foreign | Investment

Syria: Foreigners Can Own Majority Stakes in Banks

Wednesday, 13 Jan 2010 01:48 PM

Syria is allowing foreign investors to own majority stakes in the country's banks, the latest in a string of efforts to unshackle the economy as Syria emerges from years of isolation.

Foreign investors can own up to 60 percent of Syrian banks as of Jan. 4, up from just 49 percent previously, if the government approves the sale, Adib Mayaleh, the central bank's governor, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Western investors have generally stayed clear of Syria, in part due to U.S. sanctions imposed by former President George W. Bush. But the U.S. and Europe are stepping up engagement with Syria in the hope of peeling the country away from its alliance with Iran and anti-Israeli militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Mayaleh brushed off the impact of U.S. sanctions Wednesday, saying Syria was flourishing economically despite them.

"We do what we want to do, despite these sanctions," Mayaleh said in an interview, adding that the new banking rules have drawn interest from investors from the oil-rich Gulf Arab states and Europe.

Syria's president, Bashar Assad, has begun to dismantle his father's socialist legacy since he rose to office in 2000. He has loosened the reins on banking, sought to attract foreign investment, and encouraged tourism and private education.

Damascus is now home to trendy boutiques and cafes — a far cry from the city it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when commodities were so scarce that travelers from neighboring Jordan and Lebanon brought with them their own bread and toilet paper.

The U.S. imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria because of what Washington says is its support for terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and other activities including undermining U.S. operations in Iraq.

Syria denies the allegations.

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Syria is allowing foreign investors to own majority stakes in the country's banks, the latest in a string of efforts to unshackle the economy as Syria emerges from years of isolation.Foreign investors can own up to 60 percent of Syrian banks as of Jan. 4, up from just 49...
ML,Syria,Foreign,Investment
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2010-48-13
Wednesday, 13 Jan 2010 01:48 PM
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