This chapter examines the regime’s policies, their explanations and their consequences by looking at rural reform, industrialisation, and economic liberalisation.
I. RURAL REFORM AND DEVELOPMENT UNDER
A. Agrarian policy
The Ba’th’s policy of rural development was driven by several conflicting imperatives. The party came to power committed to an agrarian reform which would create a “socialist” agricultural sector based on state-led development, state farms and peasant cooperatives. Its ability to deliver a more equitable and productive agrarian sector was a key to its legitimacy among its putative rural constituency. However, a major practical challenge was posed by land re-distribution to peasants which, in alienating landlords and investors who had hitherto been the source of production requisites and investment, left a gap which the state had to fill if production was to be sustained. When Asad came to power, however, he inherited an agrarian sector in stagnation: unfinished cooperatization meant the state was failing to fill the gap. He therefore sought to placate landlords and investors and revive the private agricultural sector. Not only were landlords encouraged to invest on their reduced post-land reform holdings, but the vast state lands in the scarcely populated Jazirah, on which the state lacked the resources to either resettle peasants or create state farms, were now rented out to agrarian entrepreneurs. Thus, the bourgeoisie, formerly regarded as a bankrupt hostile class, was being made a partner in agrarian development. The state, in the meantime, would concentrate on
organising the small peasant sector and reserve its investment for the newly reclaimed and irrigated lands in major hydraulic projects such as the Ghab and the Euphrates Basin. Agriculture would, thus, have dual private and “socialist” sectors (ABSP 1965; 1972b).