Syria - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Syria has an inadequate and outdated infrastructure and transport system that is mainly controlled by state-run agencies. The highways, which provide the chief means of transporting goods and passengers, run about 36,377 kilometers (22,604 miles), nearly 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) of which are unpaved. The major Syrian cities are linked by the 2,750-kilometer (1,709-mile) long railway network all around the country, but the service is slow because of the obsolete trains.

Syria has 104 airports, including military airports, 24 of which have paved runways. The international airlines are in the capital of Damascus and Aleppo, where facilities can handle jet aircrafts. Syrian Airlines connects Syria with other Arab, Asian, and major European countries. Although Syria has a short coastline, which stretches for about 193 kilometers (120 miles) along the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Lebanon, it has a commercial fleet composed of 137 ships and 4 major ports and harbors in Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, and Tartus.

Syria's electrical power is handled by the Public Establishment of Electricity for Generation and Transmission and the Public Establishment for Distribution and Exploitation of Electrical Energy. Syria's annual electricity production was 17.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1998, 42.8 percent of which was generated from fossil fuel, whereas the remaining 57.2 percent was produced from hydroelectric resources. The main problems in the Syrian electricity sector are inefficiency and technical power losses that lead to periodic power outages.

The Syrian telecommunication system is undergoing a number of significant improvements and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology. The government-owned Syrian Telecommunication Establishment provides all services in this sector. The country had 1.4 million telephone lines in 1998. In addition, a pilot global system for mobile communications (GSM) cellular telephone network was launched in Syria in February 2000, with capacity for 60,000 subscribers in the Damascus and Aleppo areas. A permanent GSM telephone system to replace the pilot scheme was expected to launch in February 2001, according to an EIU Country Report of October 2000. Recently, the Syrian government approved the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) as the country's first Internet service provider. Only SCS members (Syrian scholars, university professors, engineers, computer specialists, public sector professionals, and some private entrepreneurs) are allowed access to the Internet. Their activities are subject to strict government control and monitoring. Most Internet services remain blocked, including most web mail and voice/telephony services.

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