Syria’s Central Economy Remains Broken: Survival Economy Emerges

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BMI Research states that Syria’s economy will contract at an annual 3.9 percent from 2016 to 2019 as civil war rages on, according to Business Insider. Growth is expected to return in 2020, but only through humanitarian assistance and investment from Russia and Iran. Syria’s GDP has plummeted since 2011.

President Bashar al-Assad is in a fight for his life as he combats an influx of terrorists and rebels that have claimed large parts of Syria. The insurgents have been helped by Turkey and Gulf nations that are determined to see the Syrian president removed due to his geopolitical alliance with Iran and Russia.

Syria is a pariah on the world stage and cannot survive without assistance from Russia and Iran. However, Assad should not expect too much support from his allies, as Russia contends with its own set of economic troubles, and Iran’s economy struggles to gain traction despite a sanctions reprieve from the international community.

Syria cannot recover economically due to the ISIS onslaught, and the terrorist organization has seized many oil fields, depriving the government of vital revenue. Syria relied on oil for 50 percent of its revenue stream, and the overall value of exports declined over 80 percent in the past five years.

Experts also do not expect a recovery in exports before 2021 due to damaged infrastructure. Further, Syria is paying a price in human capital, as millions of refugees seek asylum elsewhere, and around four million Syrian children do not attend school. Syria is no longer a functioning state, but a partitioning of various factions that vie for power. These factions include Assad’s government, ISIS, rebel-controlled areas and the Kurdish territories.

Syria’s national economy is destroyed, but a new black economy has arisen based on survival, and each territory trades with the other despite competing interests. Syrian territories rely on trucks to bring in goods in the form of produce, livestock or oil, and leaders often trade with other territories in support of local economies.

For instance, ISIS territories were forced to buy fuel from Kurdish forces when U.S. bombing campaigns targeted oil sites in 2015 and the Kurds trade with ISIS as a means of survival. The Kurds also survive through tariffs and local and foreign donations. Further, government and ISIS territories raise revenue in part through bribery and taxation of goods, and ISIS is financially desperate to the point of preferring to impose fines instead of brutal punishment, notes The Washington Post.

Trucking is one of the few viable means of employment in Syria, but truckers face enormous risks in the form of air bombings and shakedowns. Assad’s economy has traditionally fared better than ISIS-controlled territories, but the government is failing to maintain economic stability.

With that, ISIS and rebel economies are faring the worse as destroyed infrastructure and a barren economy stoke further discontent among the populace, which will cause many to leave.