Transport Minister Makram Obeid on 9 November announced wide-ranging plans to develop Syria’s transport infrastructure at a meeting in London.

Damascus is planning to make improvements to its airports, railways, ports and highways. Obeid said plans include expanding Damascus International Airport to accommodate 28 aircraft and to handle 2.5 million passengers a year. Aleppo International Airport will also be upgraded to handle 12 aircraft and accommodate 1.5 million passengers a year (see Special Report, pages 57-58).

New railway plans are also under study. Obeid said the ministry planned to connect Homs to Palmyra and on to Deir al-Zor, Alkabon to Adra, Dara to Damascus and Deir al-Zor to Alboukamal.

Plans for the country’s ports include the construction of two new quays at Tartous port and the expansion of existing quays at Latakia port. Tartous Port General Company (TPGC)has already issued a tender for construction and operation of the new quays on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. The contract is for 35 years and is renewable (MEED 23:9:05).

The highway infrastructure will also be upgraded. Plans include building a new road to the Turkish and Jordanian borders. The ministry is also planning to carry out a feasibility study for a road from Tartous on the Mediterranean coast to the Iraqi border.

Addressing concerns expressed by international companies on project finance for planned transport projects, the minister said: ‘The banking system in Syria will be able to provide loans to major projects and the ministry will provide assistance on build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects. Under investment law 10 there will be income tax exemption on projects for up to five-to-seven years; 50:50 joint ventures will be possible.’

The investment law is aimed at encouraging foreign investment and offers various incentives to investors, including tax exemptions for up to 10 years, owning or leasing of land and transferring capital after five years of setting up developments.