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Adnan Abdul Razzaq

Syria: 'anger' at soaring unemployment and rising poverty

Damascenes queue for bread, which has increased 12-fold in price [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 February, 2015

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Syrian trade unions and economists warn of a "structural deformation" of the Syrian economy, with rising levels of poverty and soaring unemployment rates in areas under government control.

The Syrian regime is facing economic crisis and unrest as unemployment and poverty levels soar in areas it controls after four years of civil war, economists have warned.

While figures are hard to verify, some observers have estimated that at least 40 percent of the working population in government-controlled areas are without jobs.

Jamil Hussein, a high-ranking former government economist who no longer lives in Syria, told al-Araby that the government faced growing unrest over the economy.

"It is probable that Syrians will rise in the areas under Assad's control as a result of the lack of job opportunities except for those in the military," he said.

He said the estimates of 40 percent were conservative, saying it had reached as high as 75 percent.

"Eighteen millions Syrians live under the poverty line according to UN estimates, and eight million are under extreme poverty. Syrians are losing the ability to cope with the crisis, which might result in famine in Syria," he added.

     It is probable that Syrians might rise in the areas under Assad's control as a result of the lack of job opportunities except for those in the military.
Jamil Hussein, former regime economist

Samir Seifan, a Syrian economist at the University of St Andrews, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that estimates suggested that poverty rates had soared to 80 percent since the start of the civil war due to a crippling of industry, agriculture and government services, leading to mass job losses.

He said humanitarian aid and foreign remittances were keeping Syrians who are outside the regime's control alive, as over three million Syrians both outside and inside Syria depend on aid. However, he added that he believed anger was building in regime areas due to the deteriorating economic situation.

The Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions has warned of the dire consequences of risingpoverty.

In a report released last month, it said: "The standstill in most economic activities cannot be ignored. The decrease in manufacturing, agriculture, oil extraction, construction, traditional crafts, tourism [and] the stagnation of the banking sector have all caused the structural deformation of the Syrian economy".

The CIA World Factbook estimates the unemployment rate in 2013 to be about 18 percent across Syria, but states it cannot obtain reliable figures. The data website stated the Syrian government had struggled to tackle the effects of sanctions, infrastructure damage and falling production.

In addition to the dire economic situation, Syrians have recently suffered a sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound, directly affecting the price of fuel, bread and rice which has increased 12-fold since 2011.   

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.

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