Syria is inviting investors to help revamp the state’s underperforming industrial sector but privatisation is not on the table, the industry minister said.
The Syrian state owns factories producing everything from cigarettes to washing machines, despite recent steps to lift Soviet-style economic policies imposed by the ruling Baath Party when it came to power nearly 50 years ago.
Now state factories that need an overhaul, especially cement, are being offered on build-operate-and-transfer (bot) basis to private investors who take a proportion of the extra output if they raise production, Fouad al-Jouni said.
Businessmen say the policy got off to a slow start, but Jouni said the government aims to apply it broadly across state industries.
“We have adopted this principle towards every public sector industrial company that needs to be modernised. We are ready to begin negotiations with any investor,” Jouni said.
“But there is no sale of public industrial assets. Privatisation is prohibited and workers rights cannot be compromised,” he added.
In the next two weeks, the ministry will re-tender to revamp the 700,000t Rustin cement factory near the city of Hamah after disagreements with the initial winner, the Syrian Altoun group, which was due to run the plant, Jouni said.
Another factory near the city of Tartous is already being run by Faraon group under a 4 1/2 year concession, with annual production rising so far from 1.3Mt to 1.8Mt, the engineer added.
The government relinquished its monopoly on cement production two years ago and state factories are facing competition for the first time, with a factory part-owned by France’s Lafarge starting operations last month.