Syria's new Cabinet lacks 'any trace of opposition'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree carrying out a reshuffle of his ministers, which was mainly limited to economic portfolios and which completely excluded the opposition.

al-monitor Syrian parliament members listen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, June 7, 2016. Photo by SANA/Reuters.

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syrian opposition, syrian regime, syrian conflict, prime minister, electricity shortages, electricity, defense ministry, bashar al-assad

Jul 5, 2016

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced July 3 the lineup of the new government headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. This government is the first to be formed in the era of the New People's Council. While more than half of the old ministers were changed, economy-related ministers were the most affected.

The official Syrian news agency SANA announced Decree No. 203, which provides for the formation of a new government in Syria, in which the “sovereign” ministries were left unchanged. Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij remained defense minister and deputy prime minister while Walid al-Moualem was reappointed foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

The position of deputy prime minister for economic affairs was not in the lineup. This position remained divided between a military wing and a foreign policy wing. The military wing — headed by Freij — gains importance since all of the country's issues are now linked to military action, and this leads to a clearer relationship between the military and civilian institutions. The political wing allows the government to assess the feasibility of openness to and cooperation with the countries of the world.

Awqaf Minister Mohammed Abdel Sattar, Presidential Affairs Minister Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim al-Shaar, Education Minister Hezwan Alwaze, Justice Minister Najm Hamad al-Ahmad, and Public Works and Housing Minister Hussein Arnous kept their positions.

Also remaining in office were Agriculture Minister Ahmed Qadri, Tourism Minister Bishr Yazigi, Administrative Development Minister Hassan al-Nouri and Health Minister Nizar Wahba Yazji.

The only female minister with a portfolio kept her post, namely Labor and Social Affairs Minister Rima Qadri. Two female ministers of state, Wafiqa Hosni and Salwa Abdullah, were appointed, although they were not allocated any portfolios.

The changes, some of which were sudden, were mainly economic, as Adib Mayaleh, governor of the Central Bank of Syria since 2005, was appointed minister of economy and foreign trade, and Mamoun Hamdan, who was executive director of the Damascus Stock Exchange, was appointed finance minister. The electricity portfolio was given to Mohammad Zahir, who was director of the electricity company in the Damascus countryside. The Oil Ministry went to Ali Ghanem, who was general manager of an oil company.

Governors of provinces have been previously appointed to ministerial positions. This time, Suwayda Gov. Atef Naddaf was appointed higher education minister and Damascus Gov. Hussein Makhlouf was named local administration minister.

Ali Al-Dafeer was appointed communications and technology minister; he formerly was an assistant in the Communications Ministry. Mohammed Ramez Turgeman, who served as director of the Public Authority for Radio and Television, became the new information minister.

As expected, Minister of State for National Reconciliation Ali Haidar kept his position due to his accumulated experience in this field.

Observers said Ahmad al-Hamu, who served in the 2000-2003 government of Prime Minister Mustafa Miro, returned as industry minister, while Nabil Hassan became water resources minister, Ali Hammoud was named transport minister, and Abdullah Al-Qirbi was appointed minister of domestic trade and consumer protection. Mohammed Al-Ahmed was named culture minister after serving as director general of the General Organization for Cinema in Syria.

This government has major responsibilities that many think are too much for any government to handle in light of the repercussions of the more than five-year-long war.

Syria lacks human resources, as many of its people have emigrated or fled in search of refuge. Syria also lost most of its hard currency as its economic productivity has weakened in light of the high inflation caused by a string of combined factors.

Former officials previously told As-Safir that the focus will be on the economic and service sectors in an attempt to “mobilize local productivity, boost the economy, especially through small projects, and promote exports using suitable mechanisms.”

Some are betting that Khamis, who had fought the battle of trying to maintain the electricity sector, will be able to manage similar governmental battles, especially since he had an important role in picking the ministers of economic and service administration during the 10 days of consultations.

Interestingly enough, the resonance of the “political process that took place in Geneva” was completely absent from this formation; also absent was any trace of opposition.

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