‘The commission has six months to prepare the rules and regulations, which will look at the creation of a Syrian stock market,’ Mohammad Imadi, former economy & foreign trade minister and president of the new commission to oversee the establishment of the stock exchange, told MEED on 7 March.

The new seven-member commission headed by Imadi includes: vice-president Mohammad Jleilati; Ghassan al-Habash, deputy economy & trade minister; Mohammad Hamandosh, deputy finance minister; Hisham Moutwalli, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Syria; Elias Haddad, professor of law at the University of Damascus; and Yousr Barnieh.

Damascus issued law 22 last June, outlining the establishment of a Syrian securities and exchange commission and has been approached by a Turkish company identified as RBF Financial Group, which has offered to administer a future stock market.

‘RBF made an offer to the government to administer the stock market,’ says Imadi. ‘The creation of a market has plenty of government support but we need time to prepare all the necessary rules and regulations.’

Damascus is also moving ahead with other economic reforms including monetary initiatives aimed at normalising monetary policy by floating the currency in June and introducing value-added tax (VAT) by 2008 with IMF assistance.

A new income tax law is also in the pipeline as well as banking sector reform aimed at changing the method of establishing private banks. Currently, private banks are restricted to 49 per cent foreign ownership, but the ceiling will be removed.

www.meed.com/economy