Key Syrian-Qatari Holding investments

$1bn: Planned investment in two power stations

$90m: Cost of dairy farm project in northern Syria

$100m: Proposed investment in sewage schemes

Source: MEED

Electricity demand in Syria (MW)
  2009 2015 2020 2025
Peak power demand 6,500 11,000 14,000 18,000
Source: Ministry of Electricity

Qatar Holding has engineered a timely entry into Syria with its potential still largely untapped. Acting now should give it a strong foothold, with fewer barriers to entry and less competition. Syria is looking to private investment to help build up its infrastructure, and needs heavyweight, credible foreign investors, such as the Qatar government, to help construct and operate services.

Syrian-Qatari Holding’s (SQH) focus on large public-private partnerships (PPP) will be supported by the recent establishment of a dedicated government PPP unit with an executive mandate to oversee key projects.

Starting off in the power and water sectors, the government is also keen to extend the PPP model over other sectors where SQH is active, in an attempt to attract foreign investment into critical infrastructure sectors. The $5bn start-up capital gives SQH a strong position. Its local-only rival, Cham Holding, which started in 2007 and is focusing on schemes similar to SQH, has capital of just $360m. 

The focus on partnerships with strategic investors appears well suited to the requirements of the Syrian economy. But SQH will still face challenges in building up its project portfolio. Some Syrian business leaders complain of the lethargic pace of economic reform, and that vested interests with strong connections to the regime are thwarting private sector dynamism.

The new government PPP unit will help smooth the process of investing in privately financed projects, but Syria is not making as seamless a transition from command economy to a free market as some of its stoutest advocates – such as deputy prime minister Abdullah Dardari – suggest.