Enab Baladi – Zeinab Masri
The course of events in Syria has profoundly changed the socio-economic order in the north of the country, which borders with Turkey. Some villages and small towns became economic centers after the decline of Aleppo, which was once the economic capital of Syria.
Sarmada, a small town in the countryside north of Idlib near the Bab al-Hawa border post with Turkey, has seen this transformation.
In addition, some small villages, which are densely populated due to the spread of large numbers of IDP camps, such as Atmeh and Qah, have become economic centers.
Several investment companies and projects have rushed to expand into these small towns and villages, given their population density, proximity to the Turkish border and the relative extent of security there.
What is the need to invest in northern Syria?
The need for investment in northern Syria stems from the existence of reasonable capital in the hands of the people there – capital is characterized as “inactive and diminished” due to the skyrocketing of the inflation – the availability of good investment opportunities. In addition, the Idlib governorate has enormous human capital potential, a very high population density and an excellent geographical location.
The availability of investment companies will increase investment opportunities, stimulate economic movement and achieve sustainable development in the region.
As a result, more human resources, mainly university graduates, will be hired, said the public relations office of the Namaa Investment Company, which operates in northwestern Syria. Enab Baladi.
Namaa is an investment finance company in the region, working with a capital fully paid by individuals and institutions, provided that this capital is invested in several projects: such as the creation of commercial companies, real estate development projects , fuel companies and other import finance and trade deals.
Real estate investments above all
The company’s public relations office highlighted that the most important areas for investment in the region include the real estate sector, the healthcare sector, tender finance and the natural stone sector – investing in the extraction and export of natural stones, including marble. All of these types of investments help bring hard currency into northern Syria.
He pointed out that there are promising opportunities in other areas that may have high investment value, such as investment in livestock, renewable energy and some industrial specializations.
Namaa Company explained that the main obstacle for investment companies in northwestern Syria is persistent instability. The Idlib region could be the scene of military clashes at any time. Therefore, people save their money as a precaution; they do not spend it because they might suddenly be forcibly displaced.
Investment in northwestern Syria could encounter many difficulties such as the lack of necessary experience (particularly strong accounting experience). In addition, people tend not to invest in industrial zones due to the insufficient stability of the region and the semi-siege situation in the north.
The global financial crisis, which was triggered by the spread of the coronavirus infection (COVID-19), has had a severe impact on northern Syria: an increase in fuel prices and imports in general and a collapse of the value of the Turkish lira, which is the main currency adopted in the Idlib region.
Instability and insecurity are the biggest challenges
Syrian economist Khaled Terkawi said Enab Baladi that the border areas in northern Syria, such as Sarmada and Dana, are relatively stable, which dissemination of investments; many stores and some factories and workshops were created.
He added that the proliferation of stability and security in the border areas of northern Syria strengthens economic activities and attracts investment. These areas, which have become densely populated following multiple waves of displacement, have grown in importance. Indeed, the presence of several people will revive and expand the market.
Terkawi believes these areas will continue to expand in the future as people seek more opportunities. For example, new industrial cities are founded in northern Syria. The establishment of industrial towns indeed leads to the emergence of new markets and the expansion of economic activities in border areas.
On the other hand, the Syrian economist and researcher from the Middle East Institute in Washington, Karam Shaar, said that the main problem facing the investments or projects that have started to appear in cities like Sarmada, Dana and the countryside Aleppo, is the fear of investors to establish long-term business.
Talk with Enab Baladi, the researcher argued that investments are limited so far in northern Syria because there is no reliable or transparent future for these projects. In addition, “Capital is a coward”.
As a result, most projects are quick wins and do not require large capital outlays. These are projects related to harvesting certain agricultural crops, canning and exporting products to Turkey, or harvesting, pressing, storing and distributing olive oil. outside of Syria.
Shaar believes the investments are having a positive impact on people living in northwestern Syria. Cheap labor is one of the main incentives for investing in northwestern Syria. However, the instability of the security situation and the lack of clarity of the political and economic horizon of the region make investment “unattractive”.
Namaa believes that the most vital role of investment companies in northern Syria is to mine (use) citizens’ money in various investment areas. These investments serve the public interest and reduce unemployment.
When the activities and investment projects are carried out with wisdom and skill, the economic problems will be resolved in northern Syria over time.
Moreover, when the investments are successfully developed, it could attract foreign capital to invest in the region. This will improve the standard of living of people in northern Syria and improve health services and education and development rates.
What makes the region special?
“The interstitial zone encompassing Sarmada and Bab al-Hawa constitutes a particular phenomenon. It is not a classic border area separating two sovereign states, although it does fulfill this function. Neither is it a free zone created by such entities to facilitate trade, although it does too, ”according to a study titled“ How the Small Town of Sarmada Became the Gateway to Syria to the world, ”published June 2 by Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Center for the Middle East.
The study states: “One way to perceive the Sarmada / Bab al-Hawa phenomenon is to imagine it as a multi-portal gateway, which has arisen organically – it is more the result of circumstances than of design – between Turkey’s distinct socio-political-economic systems. and Syria.
From an economic point of view, Sarmada is seen as a link between the well-defined and internationally recognized financial / banking order that exists in Turkey and the rest of the world, with the relatively “vague” banking-financial system of Idlib. , which is managed by international non-actors and lacks a clear regulatory framework.
According to the study, the uniqueness of this multi-portal portal lies in the fact that no actor maintains close control. For example, Turkey, the only international player with a strong presence on the ground in Idlib, exerts influence over the region but does not enjoy tight control.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, who runs most of Idlib in the immediate physical sense, imposed his control over the Sarmada / Bab al-Hawa area and reaped some benefits. Nevertheless, the group refrained from exercising full control as such a measure could backfire.