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Syria plunged into a deep economic crisis




The ravages of the civil war in Syria have left behind an economic crisis that is severely affecting the population (photo: Abdulaziz Aldroubi/Unicef)
The ravages of the civil war in Syria have left behind an economic crisis that is severely affecting the population (photo: Abdulaziz Aldroubi/Unicef)
SYRIA. The war in Syria, which is entering its eleventh year, is less and less talked about. Geir Pedersen even stressed, on Wednesday 20 January 2021 before the members of the UN Security Council, that "the last ten months of the conflict have been the calmest in its history. But, the UN special envoy for Syria nevertheless weighted in saying, "it is a fragile calm. Civilians continue to be killed in crossfire and IED attacks. It could collapse at any moment".

According to Geir Pedersen, civilians also face other dangers such as instability, arbitrary detentions and abductions, criminality and the activities of terrorist groups. They also have to suffer the effects of the deep economic crisis affecting their country.
A meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Commission, the fifth, is expected to be held from 25 to 29 January 2021 in Geneva to discuss the basic principles of the future constitution. "If the conditions associated with the Covid-19 allow it," the UN said in a statement. If the UN special envoy says that "the time has come to move from the preparation of a constitutional reform to the drafting", he believes that "free and fair elections seem far into the future.
An even stronger opinion for the United States, which accuses the "Assad regime" of deliberately blocking the work of this commission.

Noting that the conflict is "highly internationalised" with five active foreign armies, Geir Pedersen is realistic: "we cannot pretend that the solutions are only in the hands of the Syrians or that the UN can get out of it on its own. He advocates a global approach to progress step by step towards a way out of the crisis.

 


23 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance

"Syrians are starting 2021 with a currency that has fallen significantly in value and food prices are at historically high levels, partly because subsidies for key products such as bread have been reduced," Lowcock said. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs speaks of "13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and a further 10.1 million, including 5.5 million Syrian refugees, in the region". He estimates his needs at $10bn (€8.2bn) in aid for 2021, including $4.2bn (€3.5bn) for those living inside Syria itself. On average, the humanitarian operation coordinated by the UN helped 7.6 million people per month across the country in 2020, an increase of around 20% compared to 2019.

Domestic wheat production can no longer meet demand, especially since most of it is located in areas outside the government's control. This is causing bread shortages in several provinces. There is also a lack of fuel (the market price of fuel oil is up to ten times higher than the subsidised price) causing power cuts in the middle of winter. The Syrian regime accuses "the Western states and Turkey of continuing their hegemonic policies and the plundering of its resources". And, supported in this by its Russian ally, it sees Western sanctions as the reasons for the failure of the Syrian economy. The Security Council's delegation passes the quid to him: "the regime has devastated its own economy through nepotism, corruption and by financing brutal violence against its people".

 

Food prices have risen by 236% in one year

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than eight out of ten people live in poverty in Syria, where 9.3 million people suffer from food insecurity.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has calculated that food prices rose by 13% in December 2020 compared to November 2020, and by 236% compared to December 2019. This situation could worsen further with the risk of a new wave of coronavirus infections. Cases reported in government areas increased by 64% between November and December 2020. According to the Emergency Relief Coordinator, more than 50% of the tests returned positive in Soueïda and Tartous.  In Homs, the rate reaches 60%. "45% of households have lost one or more sources of income in the previous month due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic," says Mark Lowcock.

In the face of this situation, the country is increasingly resorting to child labour. Mark Lowcock says that one in ten families say they have to rely on their children to contribute to the family income.
 

Eric Apim


Thursday, January 21st 2021



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