Cash-strapped Syria secures loans from Turkey


Turkey has offered US$247 million in loans to Syria to fund infrastructure projects, the Syrian finance minister has announced.

The Turkish loans are among the largest international commitments to Syria since the government conceded this year that it needs US$85 billion in investment over the next five years to develop the country of 20 million people.

“The money will be withdrawn on project by project basis,” said Syrian finance minister Mohammad Al-Hussein told Reuters. Those projects haven't been specified, but the government has said it needs at least US$9 billion to solve electricity shortages alone, and meet demand that is rising at 6 per cent annually.

The country is also faced with repairing a run-down water network and expanding the transport system and health care. Syria's population of around 22 million is about a third that of Turkey but its GDP is less than a twelfth of Turkey's. Projects financed by Turkey are expected to go to Turkish companies. Saudi Arabia has also promised to lend Syria US$140 million to raise power output.

Al-Hussein said building infrastructure and international development cooperation was a priority, pointing to a presidential decree this month establishing a stateowned holding company with capital of US$108 million that will generate more revenue for the state.

“The new company will enter the investment market as a main player and will be entrusted with setting up a sovereign fund. Its capital will be wholly paid up by the treasury but we may later consider initial public offerings for projects the company enters,” said Al-Hussein.

The government has a 50 per cent stake in a subsidiary of the Qatari Diar conglomerate, which is controlled by Qatar's sovereign fund. The Syrian subsidiary was set up several years ago to invest in real estate and power projects in Syria.

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