Photo Credit: Freedom House via Flickr
Syrian street scene, Feb. 28,2012

The Syrian government is under extraordinary pressure to raise salaries in the capital Damascus as the majority of the population has fallen under the poverty line, Asharq Al Awsat reported Wednesday.

The report cites a survey conducted by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, in cooperation with the American University of Beirut, showing that more than 93% of Syrians live in poverty and deprivation, including about 60% who live in extreme poverty.

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Experts consider the Assad government’s promises to improve the standard of living to be little more than “a temporary painkiller” because the state is “bankrupt.” Meanwhile there are increasing cases of armed robberies in banks and exchange companies in the capital and the provinces. The government has lost the ability to enforce law and order, the report says.

Between 2010 and today, the Assad regime’s foreign reserves have declined from $20 billion to $0.7 billion; and the Syrian lira fell from around 50 lira to one US dollar to more than 600 lira to the dollar, with insane rises in commodity prices.

This has had a catastrophic impact on people’s cost of living, with the top government salary—40,000 lira per month—reaching the buying power of about $70, and the average private-sector employees’ salaries not exceeding 65,000 lira, or $110 per month.

A 2017 World Bank report estimated the total losses of the Syrian economy at about $226 billion. About 27% of the country’s entire housing stock was completely or partially destroyed. Local figures indicate that 67% of Syria’s industrial capacity has been completely ruined – and that was two years ago!

The report describes how only last Thursday, in Damascus, two gunmen broke into a money transfer company in the capital’s suburb of Qudsia, and shot the director, who later died of his wounds. Another armed robbery was reported in the province of Sweida, where the gunmen, unmasked and in broad daylight, forced a bank driver to take them to an unknown destination with an estimated 35 million Syrian liras.

That’s $58,335.

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