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Confident Steps towards Governance Reform in Syria
The Government of Syria (GoS) organized a high-level Governance Symposium on May 23-24, 2009, during which it launched a governance reform action plan to be implemented in the coming two years. Entitled “Governance in Economic and Administrative Sectors: Integrating the Concept of Governance in the Administrative and Economic Reform Plan”, the symposium was held under the auspices of the Prime Minister, HE Mr. Naji Utry, represented by his Deputy for Economic Affairs, HE Mr. Abdullah Al-Dardari. The symposium provided a forum for senior officials, parliamentarians and representatives of the private sector and civil society to discuss a variety of reform topics among themselves and with experts drawn from throughout the Middle East and North Africa region and the World Bank.
The symposium addressed anti-corruption, civil service reform, public financial management, corporate governance and the role of parliamentarians and civil society in advancing the good governance agenda. Participants also discussed a number of important yet sensitive issues for the first time in an international conference in Syria. These ranged from problems with corruption to Syria's position on global governance indicators. The discussion was enriched by the quality of participation in terms of the seniority of the participants, their knowledge of the issues and their candor in debating the various reform options.
The action plan builds on many reform initiatives currently underway along several dimensions, including public financial management, civil service reform, corporate governance and anticorruption. Noteworthy were the decisions (i) to implement changes to help make the budget preparation process more strategic; (ii) to finalize a study on restructuring the ranking system and including job-descriptions in the civil service; and (iii) to move forward with the steps to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
The action plan, which received wide ranging support among cabinet members and senior officials, also includes important new and bold reform measures. The corporate governance pillar of the plan provides for comprehensive assessment and capacity building tools that would benefit both, a burgeoning stock market as well as the aging state-owned enterprises. The public sector pillar includes a Quality of Service Delivery Survey in a pilot sector that will identify weaknesses in service provision that affect the most vulnerable sectors of society.
The components of the action plan recognize the importance of the cooperation and ownership of the various sectors in order to ensure its successful implementation. Hence, the GoS has decided to build on the successful dialogue during the symposium to endorse the action plan according to an inclusive and participatory consultation process covering all stakeholders.
The fact that the GoS had requested the World Bank’s technical assistance in the formulation and the subsequent implementation of an action plan for governance reform is not only an indication of the government’s commitment to improving governance, but also a reflection of its awareness of the importance of good governance for social development and economic growth.