SYRIA - Profile - Dr. Mohammed Al Hussain.
Dr. Al Hussain is a conservative figure opposed to any radical change to the current system of centralised command economy. He is the direct boss of both Ghassan Rifai, a liberal economist brought in from the World Bank to replace long-serving economy minister Dr. Mohammed Imady, and of the new liberal Finance Minister Mohammed Al Atrash. Although Rifai and Atrash were brought in at President Bashar Al Assad's instructions to work out radical reforms in line with requirements aired by the IMF and the World Bank, the invisible layer of authority forced Al Hussain on Dr. Miro to make sure no such changes will occur.
Al Hussain is a close ally of the old guard in the Baath Party leadership. He has long been opposed to repeated proposals for the Syrian economy to be liberalised, having climbed the party ladder on his image as a socialist hardliner.
With Al Hussain replacing Dr. Khalid Raa'd, the most prominent among the liberal technocrats and prot?g?s of Bashar Al Assad, the message in December 2001 was clear that Damascus was not likely to meet the economy entry requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). To the invisible layer of authority and to Al Hussain, central control over the Syrian economy is a must for the security of the Baathist regime.
(In the previous cabinet, Dr. Raa'd represented the younger generation of technocrats brought in to improve Syria's economy and introduce basic socio-economic reforms. Although Raa'd now still acts as an economic adviser to young President Assad, he has no power in Syria. Before he was appointed as deputy premier for economic affairs on March 13, 2000, Dr. Raa'd was the head of the Free Zones Authority. A bright economist with liberal tendencies, he also lectured at the University of Damascus and Bashar was impressed by his calls for reforms. But, like the other technocrats nominated by Bashar, Dr. Raa'd had no political base and was little known to the public.
(Dr. Raa'd had succeeded Dr. Salim Said Yasin, who had been deputy premier for economic affairs since 1985. Dr. Yasin was both a politician and an economist. But he belonged to the old school and was implicated in a corruption scandal, although his close connections to Hafez Al Assad's invisible layer of authority saved him at the time - see background in Vol. 54).