Converse senior Nora Nassri’s summer internship will play a meaningful role in Syria’s initiative to become a serious player in the global economic community. The Nisbet Honors student interned with the Syrian Enterprise and Business Center in Damascus. The organization is a partnership between the Syrian Government and the European Union to strengthen the Syrian economy by providing the means for private sector development and growth. Working on a four-person team, Nora provided research for Vision 2025, a comprehensive primer for guiding Syria to its goals of economic strength by 2025.
The following is an account of the experience authored by Nora.
Reforming Syria: A Summer Internship
By Nora Nassri
I spend several weeks visiting my extended family in Damascus every summer, and I try to make my time there as profitable as possible. During the last couple years, I have volunteered in the Damascus Community School and worked with the Syrian Family Council in Lebanese refugee camps. This summer I had the most meaningful experience yet as I served as an intern at the Syrian Enterprise and Business Center (SEBC). It was a wonderful opportunity to meet interesting people and to engage in important research.
The SEBC is a private foundation dedicated to the development of an internationally-competitive Syrian private sector. Among its activities are support for qualified industries and businesses, including administration of a 15 million Euro grant from the European Union earmarked for the development of small and medium enterprises. The SEBC also conducts and publishes public reports on various industries in Syria, including the pharmaceutical and olive oil industries, and it attempts to lobby the Syrian government on various economic issues.
I was assigned to a team working on “Vision 2025,” a report that projects a vision for Syria by the year 2025 and provides the strategic objectives and recommendations necessary to accomplish this task within the economic, social, political, and environmental arenas. This was an appealing project for me that combined my interests in Arab political and social issues as well as my budding interest in economic development.
Vision 2025 is directed toward a range of audiences, but the primary intended one is the Syrian government. Economic issues addressed by the report included the need for institutional reform within the economic infrastructure, the most important of which are a more functional Central Bank and the problem of extensive subsidies within the Syrian economy. The Syrian economy has been unduly dependent upon oil revenues, but the decline in Syrian oil production means that unless new discoveries are located, Syria will become a net oil importer within ten years. Since the subsidies and government programs have relied upon oil monies, a crisis is looming. The Vision 2025 report highlighted the necessity of eliminating many subsidies. Emphasizing the interrelatedness of the political, social, and economic spheres to maintain lasting and stable economic growth, the report also called for wide scale reform to encourage a climate conducive to the development of human capital and the creation of economic, social, and political opportunity.
The staff of the SEBC is a talented group of people who hold diverse views on politics, economics, and social issues. Lunchtime discussions ranged over disagreements about religion, Iraq, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, women’s issues, and many other topics. Specific issues of the summer inc