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Syria Comment » Archives » SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?” by Brian J. Davis, Canadian Ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006uesd | 2011-04-12

Something that is sometimes forgotten is that neither Assad nor any of his closest confidantes (other than his wife) have real experience living in open, successful societies. They are a very inward group, interested in their own survival, in enjoying a luxurious and quasi-feudal lifestyle, and in furthering their wealth and power. They are not equipped to provide Assad with advice based on true understanding of how open economies and societies work or how to succeed in a global economy. One way or another, virtually every close advisor brought on board with international knowledge and experience has been undermined by the clique and fallen by the way side. I can remember long personal discussions with three such people, who were themselves often bewildered by the close-minded responses they got to suggestions and advice they put forward. Thus, while Assad genuinely wishes to see the Syrian economy grow, he does not really know how to make it happen.

As an example, in meetings with Assad and some of his senior advisors and ministers, I had discussions about the importance of the “rule of law“ to economic development. I often asked: what company will invest millions of dollars to establish operations in Syria, if it cannot be confident that the legal system will treat it fairly when the inevitable disputes arise? It was obvious in those kinds of discussions that while everyone nodded their heads in agreement, there was little true understanding of the implications. Nor was there any serious effort to consider how the legal system, as just one example of an area badly in need of reform, might be revamped to create a key underpinning for attracting foreign investment.

part 2/2 - excerpts

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