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flag Syria Syria: Economic and Political Outline

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline

 

Economic Indicators

While the country's economic situation had improved since the wave of economic liberalization launched under the presidency of Bashar al-Assad, with GDP more than doubling in five years and the growth rate rising to around 4%, the economy is currently on the brink of collapse. Consumption has dropped, trade is stagnating, inflation is increasing, tourism has collapsed, oil production is falling ... Negative growth could reach 18% in 2013 and the outlook for 2014 remains grim.

After three years of social revolts and later a civil war, Syria is in a disastrous social and economic situation. By late 2013, the war had left around 120,000 people dead and 2.3 million people had fled the country, while 5 million had been left in Syria without a home. The blockade imposed by the Syrian army has led to famine and a rising number of cases of tuberculosis. The country has received support from Russia, which has provided weapons on credit, as well as Iran, which has offered loans and in-kind donations. The country's economic situation is alarming: the budget deficit has reached 14% of the GDP, the state is no longer able to subsidy basic rpoducts, the Syrian pound continues to lose its value and oil production has decreased ten fold due to an embargo. As in the previous year, the 2014 budget is expansionary, reaching 9.8 billion USD. President Asad and his government are likely to focus spending on the zone under the regime's control, on military operations and wages as well as to subsidize fuel and staple foods.

The social situation of the country had been serious already before the crisis: a third of the population lived below the poverty line, unemployment affected 20% of the population (75% of the unemployed were aged 15 to 24 years), and economic growth lagged behind the very high rate of population growth (3.3% / year). Since the war, the situation has only gotten worse. The population, which is living without access to water or electricity, must deal with rising food prices, destruction and privation.

 
Main Indicators 20062007200820092010
GDP (billions USD) 33.4040.4452.5753.9460.04
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 5.05.74.55.93.4e
GDP per Capita (USD) 1,7852,1092,6762,5572,807
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 48.544.138.231.2e30.0
Inflation Rate (%) 10.44.715.22.84.4
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force) -9.210.98.18.6
Current Account (billions USD) -0.61-0.89-1.94-1.58e-1.71e
Current Account (in % of GDP) -1.8-2.2-3.6-2.9-2.8

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database , Last Available Data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Before the civil war which is currently ravaging the country, Syria was in full economic boom, exported mostly raw materials (crude oil, cotton, cereals and phosphates). Agriculture constituted a pillar of its economy, given its large population and its struggle to reach self-sufficiency. The agricultural sector contributed nearly 23% to GDP and employed 15% of the active population; however, it remained a fragile sector, since it directly depends on climatic conditions and especially on water scarcity, key regional factor. Cropland had increased by more than 50% since 1970, largely because of government incentives and more efficient use of irrigation methods. The principal crops include wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, and barley. Syria also raises poultry, cattle, and sheep.

Industry had a relatively important place, especially thanks to the textile, chemical and of course oil industry, the latter representing 14% of the Syrian GDP. The hydrocarbon sector is very important for the Syrian economy and contributes up to 65% to the country’s exports. Nevertheless, the country’s oil reserves are diminishing from year to year and although the increase of barrel price enabled an average growth of 4.5% in recent years, experts expect the Syrian oil wells to dry up by 2020. The manufacturing sector contributes 25% to GDP, with the production of handicrafts such as silk, leather and glass products.

The tertiary sector was well established (mainly tourism) and contributed more than 45% to GDP.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 14.3 32.7 53.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 17.9 33.0 49.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 7.8 -2.6 6.1

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

 
 
 
Monetary Indicators 20092010201120122013
Syrian Pound (SYP) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 11.2311.2311.2311.2311.23

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

 
 

Learn more about Market Analyses about Syria on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
51.2 /100
Position:
Mostly unfree
World Rank:
134/171
Regional Rank:
14/17

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2014 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

In principle, Syria is very open to international trade. It has signed a free-trade agreement with Turkey and joined the GAFTA (Great Arab Free Trade Area), a regional free-trade zone, as well as an association agreement with the European Union. Foreign trade represents more than 65% of the country's GDP.

After a few years of positive development, trading came to a standstil due to the country's serious political, social and economic crisis, which later changed into a civil war, and the economic sanctions imposed by its trade partners (especially by the embargo adopted by the Arab countries). The volume of trade diminished considerably and the trade deficit increased. Since the beginning of the crisis, oil production has decreased ten fold.

Foreign trade represents about 65% of the country’s GDP. Although trade had been growing in the recent years, it has now dropped because of the serious political, social and economic crisis faced by the country and economic sanctions imposed by its trading partners (including the Arab embargo).

Syria's main exports are its oil resources, but also textile, livestock and vegetables, as well as food products. Its main clients are the Arab countries, with a particular intensification of trade relations with Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, followed by the European Union, with Germany and Italy in the lead and France only taking the 6th place. In terms of imports, the most important position belongs to oil products (up to 35%), and also to metals and fabricated metal products, followed by chemical industry, livestock and consumer goods. The two main suppliers are the European Union and Asia, respectively.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20092010201120122013
Imports of Goods (million USD) 15,29117,56216,9007,3005,800
Exports of Goods (million USD) 10,85512,79610,0004,0003,000
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,7543,3772,812--
Exports of Services (million USD) 4,5797,0402,395--
Trade Balance (million USD) -3,049-3,603---
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -985197---

Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank , Last Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2010
Iraq 20.2%
Italy 13.4%
Germany 13.0%
Turkey 5.5%
Saudi Arabia 4.8%
See More Countries 43.1%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2010
Turkey 9.5%
China 8.8%
Italy 7.4%
Ukraine 6.5%
Russia 6.3%
See More Countries 61.5%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

 
 

Main Products

- bn USD of products exported in 2010
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 38.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 10.2%
Organic surface-active agents (excl. soap);...Organic surface-active agents (excl. soap); surface-active preparations, washing preparations, incl. auxiliary washing preparations, and cleaning preparations, whether or not containing soap (excl. those of heading 3401) 2.9%
Live sheep and goatsLive sheep and goats 1.9%
Natural calcium phosphates and natural aluminium...Natural calcium phosphates and natural aluminium calcium phosphates, natural and phosphatic chalk 1.8%
See More Products 45.1%
- bn USD of products imported in 2010
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 17.1%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 4.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.1%
Semi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steelSemi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steel 3.1%
Maize or cornMaize or corn 2.4%
See More Products 69.1%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

 
See More Products
More imports (Intracen Data)
More exports (Intracen Data)
 
 

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of the Economy
Ministry of Finance
Statistical Office
Central Bureau of Statistics
Central Bank
Central Bank of Syria
Stock Exchange
Website dedicated to the Syrian financial market, studies and reports on Syrian and Arab investors (in Arabic).
Search Engines
Syria Online
Syria Net
Syria Gate
Economic Portals
Library of Congress
Dmoz
Araboo

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Political Outline

Executive Power
The President is the head of state and is elected by a popular referendum for a seven-year term. The President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and holds executive power. He can declare war, issue laws, amend the constitution, and appoint civil and military personnel. The President appoints the Prime Minister (as head of the government) and his cabinet, to serve for an unspecified period of time (as long as he wishes).
Legislative Power
The legislative power is unicameral in Syria. The parliament is called the People's Council (Majlis al-Shaab). It has 250 seats and its members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Syria has been under a state of emergency since 1963, which gives the President special powers.
Main Political Parties
The main political coalition in Syria, the National Progressive Front (NPF), is composed of nationalist and leftist backers of President Assad.
The NPF:
-The Arab Socialist “Baath” Resurrection Party: party of President Assad, in power since 1949
-Socialist Unionists Party
-Communist Party of Syria
-Socialist Unionist Democratic Party
-Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Amendments to the Constitution in February 2012 in theory allow for a multi-party system, since they removed the clause stating that the Baath Party is the leader of State and society. However, the last (May 2012) elections, which took place in the midst of open rebellion against the government, were boycotted by major opposition parties. Many of these parties have long existed clandestinely or in exile. They include Islamist and Kurdish parties, especially considering that the Constitution bans religious and sectarian parties.
The main opposition party is The Syrian National Council (SNC): opposes President Al-Assad, advocates a modern, civil and democratic state
Current Political Leaders
President: Bashar al-ASAD (since July 2000, re-elected in May 2007) - Baath Party
Vice President : Farouk al-Shara since February 11, 2006.
Prime Minister: Wael al-HALQI (since 9 August 2012) - Baath Party
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2021 (by referendum)
Legislative branch: 2016
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures the violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire sent to partner organizations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and activists of human rights, including the main criteria - 44 in total - to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
177/180
Evolution:
1 place down compared to 2013

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters Without Borders

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Map of freedom 2014
Source: Freedom House

 

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Last Updates: January 2015