Dr. Ibrahim Alloush elaborates on how Syria can face the current acute economic crisis in it

Syria needs the help of its allies to help it overcome the effects of the siege and the sanctions as the nature of the war on it has changed drastically, with an emphasis on the economic front, according to the Arab political intellectual and University of Damascus economist Dr. Ibrahim Alloush.
 
The economist said in an opinion sent to Syria Times e-newspaper: "It was on the Syrian battlefield that US hegemony in the region has receded.  Russia helped a great deal in that effort, and so did Iran.  Iran helped economically as much as it could until it was itself hit by stifling sanctions.  Still, it does what it can to help Syria economically." 
 
"Russia, by its own right, didn’t hold back in terms of military support to Syria.  And that is much appreciated.  But in terms of supporting Syria economically, in the middle of a war and siege that is literally changing the face of the international system in favor of independent states, including Russia, it should be said that many Syrians wish that Russia would lend more support to their country especially that the nature of the war on Syria has changed drastically, with an emphasis on the economic front." 
 
"So, Russia needs to understand that if it doesn’t support Syria economically, it could lose whatever political advantage it gained through its undeniable military sacrifices and exceptional performance.  Specifically, and let me be clear here, Russia, as the largest exporter of gas and oil worldwide, needs to break the US-imposed oil and gas embargo on Syria ASAP, and in a big way.  It can also easily provide Syria with a million metric tons of wheat per year which it sorely needs.  Consider it a loan if you will, despite all traditional Russian reservations about repeating the sore memories of unlimited donations of the former Soviet Union to other countries."
 
He affirmed that Syrians are suffering economically under the US siege. 
 
"The US is literally trying to assassinate the country and collectively punish its people.  That is part of a campaign to destabilize Syria politically.  Russia needs to resolve the energy and the wheat crisis in Syria for its own political good, until the Syrian state reclaims the north and the northeast."
 
Dr. Alloush made it clear that there are several actors involved in burning up the Syrian crop of wheat and barley. 
 
"On one hand, there is the SDF Kurdish separatist militia, the cronies of the US occupation in the region.  On the other hand, there are assorted terrorist groups affiliated with the Turkish occupation.  There are also leftover ISIS takfiri  terrorists who have been bragging about burning down fields on their social media platforms (which, interestingly enough, have not been banned by Facebook)."
 
"Moreover, militias affiliated with both the US and Turkey have been blocking the sale of wheat and barley by Syrian peasants east of the Euphrates to the Syrian state, thus augmenting the food shortage in the country.  And both parties have also been involved in setting fires in the region in an attempt to decimate Syria’s yield of these two strategic crops.  Fires have been a yearly and an escalating occurrence during, or right before, harvest season east of the Euphrates and elsewhere." 
 
"Most recently, millions of olive trees have been burnt down right before they were due for reaping on the coastline and elsewhere in the country, specifically in regions controlled by the Syrian state, especially where olive oil is a major source of livelihood for the inhabitants.  This intensifies the impact of the sanctions on Syria in terms of food security, total output in the country, peasants’ income, and Syria’s imports bills in hard currencies which must rise to make up for lost or restricted local production."
 
"ISIS remnants and outlaw gangs in regions close to the desert have also been looting flocks of sheep and in some cases selling them in Turkey." 
 
All this has been exacerbated by the fact that the US and the SDF have been openly pillaging Syrian oil and gas and shipping it off to northern Iraq. 
 
"It is a well-known fact that the US occupation and the separatist SDF militia control over 90% of Syria’s known oil wells, and more than half of its gas wells, which happen to be located east of the Euphrates in the energy-rich parts of the country such as Deir Ez-Zour, Raqqa and Al-Hasakah, with Deir Ez-Zour being the most important in that regard.
 
Oil and gas
 
Regarding oil and gas sectors, the economist said: "Oil and gas are especially important in transportation, generating electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, etc… Therefore, the US-induced scarcity of oil and gas in Syria, a country which was energy self-sufficient before the war, led to a general decrease in the amount of goods and services produced in the economy, electricity rationing, and price increases which wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.  This is compounded by Western sanctions targeting the Syrian energy sector specifically, in addition to other sectors in the economy, which complicate efforts to make up local energy deficits through importation.  Similarly, investment and financial transfers into Syria have been severely hampered by Western sanctions." 
 
As a result, Syria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), estimated at 60 billion US dollars in 2010, has witnessed successive contractions in the early years of the war, with growth rates in the negative double-digits per year, according to Dr. Alloush.
 
"Obviously, this has led to drastic decreases in the standard of living of Syrians as represented by GDP per capita, which is obtained by dividing GDP by the number of people residing in the country.  Needless to say, poverty, in absolute and relative terms, malnourishment, and a general impoverishment of the population has been the natural outcome of such a state of affairs."
 
Cesar’s Law
 
The economist added that this onslaught on the Syrian economy, only made worse by the so-called “Cesar’s Law”, but which started with a gradual tightening of sanctions on Syria since the late Seventies really, was coupled with the methodical and deliberate destruction of Syria’s infrastructure during the war, with the elimination of the copious cash flow which tourism used to bring into the economy every year, with the looting and burning of factories, much of which were shipped off to Turkey, especially in the Aleppo region, and with the general disorder that inflicted the economy due to foreign interventions, be it from “Israel”, Turkey, or the US, as well as foreign-financed and backed terrorism. 
 
"Obviously this led to a contraction of the quantity of goods and services produced in the economy and in an across the board decrease in exports, tourism, and foreign direct investment, which means foreign demand for the Syrian Pounds decreased.  At the same time, government revenues decreased with a dwindling economic cycle, and government obligations (due to the war and its social effects) increased.  So the ratio of the amount of money circulating in the economy relative to the quantity of goods and services increased.  This necessarily means inflation, i.e., a general and continuous rise in the price level, and with that, the Syrian Pound started tumbling." 
 
Solutions
 
He believes that the quantity of goods and services produced in the economy need to be increased to prevent the depreciation of the Syrian Pound and runaway inflation. 
 
-Every possible measure that can be taken to jump-start manufacturing, agriculture, internal tourism, and internal trade should be considered a matter of strategic priority. 
 
-The sanctions regime could actually become an opportunity to build a base of self-sufficiency in certain areas of the Syrian economy in which the country is already endowed with resources to satisfy many basic needs.  For example, agriculture and light manufacturing have always been strong suits for Syria. 
 
-Encouraging small businesses enterprises with government-sponsored exemptions, loans, and aid can elicit a historically well-established business-oriented culture in Syria. 
 
-Drawing up plans to integrate different sectors of the economy so agriculture produces inputs for manufacturing, e.g., cotton for the textile industry, so manufacturing produces inputs for agriculture, e.g., phosphates for fertilizers, or so universities and researchers produce ideas and projects for improving productivity using local resources in all sectors of the economy that can be scrutinized and adopted by financial institutions, etc… should all become daily practice if Syria is going to survive and flourish under the siege. 
 
"This requires a combined effort by the public and private sectors as well as opening up the door for initiatives by philanthropists and volunteers.  This can and needs to be undertaken, and certain steps in that direction have actually been taking place already despite the scarcity of resources given the state of siege and war," Dr. Alloush concluded.
 
Basma Qaddour
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