The Syrian opposition will need $60 billion in Marshall Plan-style aid and investments to prevent the country’s collapse within six months of a fall of the regime, prominent leader George Sabra told reporters on Wednesday.
He urged a “Partnership to Invest in Future Syria” meeting held in Dubai to immediately launch a Marshall Plan for the Arab country, along the lines of the huge post-World War II recovery programme for Europe.
Over the “first six months we need 60 billion dollars” as immediate funding for reconstruction, Sabra, who heads the Syrian National Council, told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
Sabra said the money must come in the form of aid from “our Arab brothers and the international community on whom we count to fulfill their responsibilities towards the humanitarian crisis our country is facing.”
Osama Kadi, a senior member of an economic task force for Syria, suggested that $10 billion could be raised through loans, while other funds could come in the form of investments.
Kadi said that a group of Syrian expatriate businessmen on Wednesday pledged “five billion dollars as a commitment” to invest in post-Assad Syria.
Sabra said funding is needed to “resolve the most sensitive and outstanding issues,” starting with “securing housing for people after 2.5 million homes have been destroyed” in the conflict.
“What can be described as an economic ‘Marshall Plan for Syria’ cannot be delayed until the current regime fully collapses. It must be initiated immediately,” he said.
And he urged Arab and international business communities to support “fully or almost completely” liberated zones in Syria’s northern cities of Aleppo, Idlib, and Tal Abyad.
“The regime is in the stage of decline and will not last long,” Sabra told AFP.
UAE Minister of Economy Sultan al-Mansouri announced, meanwhile, that major “Emirati companies have declared their interest in investing in Syria’s future economy among them — (Abu Dhabi National Energy Company) TAQA, Mubadala, DP World, Masdar and Etisalat.”
But German representative Volkmar Wenzel said “we must start with relief and go through many phases before reaching to foreign investment” in Syria, where an anti-regime revolt since March 2011 has cost tens of thousands of lives.
Farah Atassi, a prominent opposition activist, said: “There is a need for cash in Syrian banks and the central bank for this phase from the first day after the fall of the Syrian regime up to six months.”
This is “to ensure that vital installations such as water, electricity and health sectors continue to offer Syrian citizens their services,” said Atassi.
“This is a phase in which the Syrian state must not collapse,” he said, adding: “This would lead to security and economic problems.”
Sabra also called for the setting up of an “immediate coordination bureau either inside Syria or in any city near the Turkish-Syrian border” to secure the flow of aid and offer rebels “administrative and technical expertise.”
The meeting was the second of its kind, co-chaired by the United Arab Emirates and Germany, in the Gulf country this year.
Over 500 regional and international delegates were meeting in a series of sessions to study strategies for private-sector engagement in helping to rebuild Syria.
Sabra’s SNC is a main component of the National Coalition formed in Doha on November 11 that has so far gained recognition from Britain, France, Italy, Turkey, the EU and six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
“We hope the American stance moves forward towards supporting the Syrian revolt and recognising the National Coalition as France and Britain did,” said Sabra.
The coalition has been openly rejected by some Islamist groups in the northern city and province of Aleppo, a frontline in the war between rebels and the regime, including Al-Nusra Front, who dubbed it a “conspiratorial project”.
But Sabra dismissed these groups as “minorities … representing their own opinions and views. And this is their right.”
He renewed opposition calls for providing military aid to rebels.