Syria interim minister: $100 billion needed for reconstruction

In an interview with Al-Hayat, the finance and economy minister of the Syrian interim government, Ibrahim Niro, calls for more financial support, noting that reconstruction will cost an estimated $100 billion.

al-monitor Ibrahim Miro (R) and Saad Alammar look at a document before a working-level meeting on sanctions to the Syrian government, Tokyo, Nov. 30, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Toru Hanai.

Topics covered

syrian regime, syrian refugees, syrian opposition, syrian conflict, reconstruction, humanitarian aid, friends of the syrian people

Jan 20, 2014

The finance and economy minister of the Syrian interim government, Ibrahim Miro, called on the Friends of the Syrian People to provide additional financial support and unified channels. While he exalted the support provided by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to the Syrian people, he urged the United Nations to coordinate the issue of internal aid that the regime is exploiting. Miro noted that the estimated cost of reconstruction is nearly $100 billion.

In an interview with Al-Hayat, Miro said that the priority of the interim government is “the provision of basic services” in some areas, and added that Iran has provided the regime with nearly $15 billion, according to estimates. He added, “The GCC countries were not negligent and have assisted the Syrian people. Hopefully, financial support will be provided from now on through one party, namely the Syrian interim government.”

During the international donor conference to rally humanitarian support for Syria on Wednesday [Jan. 15] in Kuwait, during which $2.4 billion was raised in pledges, he said, “We support the efforts of our brothers in Kuwait, as well as their initiative, and we appreciate the UN’s sincere desire to assist the Syrians. This aid is necessary, especially the aid dedicated to the Syrians who are displaced to neighboring countries. Yet, the largest part is spent through internal aid by coordinating with the Assad regime exclusively, which has exploited this aid. Those affected [by the war] only have access to a small part.”

“As an opposition party and the Syrian interim government, we are not satisfied with the internal assistance that is currently provided, and we believe that the UN should coordinate with us and overcome legal restrictions that are constantly reiterated. Millions of Syrians have been cut off from humanitarian support because of this strategy,” he said.

On the outcomes of the recent visit to Qatar by the Syrian delegation, headed by Ahmad Tohme, prime minister of the Syrian interim government, he said, “The Qataris, most notably Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, have continued to offer support to the Syrian people. Qatar does not consider the Syrian issue a political one, but rather a matter of principle.”

He noted that before the start of the new year, the Syrian interim government had prepared the accounts of the 2014 budget and the sums required to provide services to 4-5 million people. He added, “We need $1.9 billion per year, as the budgeting operating expenses for each month is about $150 million. Add to this the budget of the Ministry of Defense, which has not been disclosed for strategic reasons, knowing that the ministry operating budget accounts for 20% of the Syrian budget of 2010.”

When asked how the budget of the interim government was developed for this year, he said, “We adopted the Syrian budget numbers for 2010, which were audited by the International Monetary Fund. We do not trust the numbers contained in the budgets of the years 2011, 2012 and 2013. If we want to provide services for 20% of the Syrians and run some ministries, we need $200 million a month.”

When asked about the refugees, he replied, “The issue of refugees is enormous and goes beyond the UN organizations. The government's priorities focus on the domestic arena, and if that focus disappears, millions would leave.” He stressed that “our priority is to protect some areas and provide services so that Syrians would leave the camps.”

In response to a question about the estimates of Syria’s reconstruction cost, he said, “We are not a reconstruction government. This needs political, security and military stability. We cannot build a hospital because the regime would destroy it. Our preliminary estimates indicate that reconstruction will cost more than $100 billion, but we do not have accurate figures, and judging by the scale of destruction, a huge team is needed in order to monitor the reconstruction funds.”

He stressed that the priority is to “provide basic services, which are very important. We have relief projects for water and electricity, and we will begin to provide electricity and water services in the first quarter of 2014. A project was launched a few weeks ago to provide drinking water, but I cannot specify its location. It is being carried out with the support of the Friends of Syria. I believe in the full package. In other words, if we have not been able to protect an area, it would be wasteful to build projects in it.”

“The Friends of the regime do not need bureaucracy to support it, and they have offered billions of dollars to this regime. The Iranian regime has offered more than $15 billion. The amounts provided by the Friends of the Syrian People, however, are minor, and Western countries cannot provide support in the absence of a specific mechanism. But this mechanism has started to work, and we received 50 million Euros [$67.9 million] from participating countries. We hope that we will get more money because we want direct support,” he continued.

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