Syria's Assad approves Cabinet with new internal trade minister

Amr Salem has openly criticised unnamed officials' behaviour and negligence on social media

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad issued a decree forming a new government on Tuesday, keeping many of the same faces but appointing Amr Salem as internal trade and consumer protection minister, Syria's state news agency Sana said.

Mr Assad was re-elected by a 95 per cent landslide for a fourth seven-year term in May in a vote the international community has said lacks legitimacy.

The Cabinet is made up of 29 members led by Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, who was reappointed last month. A new information minister was also named, while the defence, economy and foreign affairs ministers remain the same.

In the lead-up to his appointment, Mr Salem published a scathing rebuke on his Facebook page of officials neglecting to regularly maintain power stations, and criticised those who “hide behind routine” and show “laziness” when performing their duties.

“Those who believe that standing by the Syrian Army in the current battle gives them the right to offend citizens, the state, and public order … are no different than terrorists,” he wrote on Friday.

“We will deal with them firmly and without hesitation.”

He also proposed “solutions” to problems such as higher bread prices and electricity shortages, exacerbated by a crumbling economy, international sanctions and a financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.

Human Rights Watch said in a January situation report that ordinary Syrians had been unable “to procure food, essential drugs, and other basic necessities".

“As a result, more than 9.3 million Syrians have become food insecure and over 80 per cent of Syrians live below the poverty line," it said.

Hunger in the country has reached “record highs”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly in March.

European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said May's election undermined efforts to end 10 years on conflict in the country.

“The elections that took place in Syria on May 26 met none of the criteria of a genuinely democratic vote, do not contribute to the settlement of the conflict,” he said the day after the poll.

Updated: August 10th 2021, 2:18 PM