Posted Date : 10/05/2012 08:32

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the value of the Syrian pound has fallen 45 percent and the Damascus stock exchange decreased 40 percent since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.  While it is known that the unrest has damaged the Syrian economy, little hard data is available.

IMF deputy managing director Nemat Shafik said in Beirut, “The exchange rate on the black market has depreciated by 45 percent and 25 percent on the official market…we know that GDP has fallen but we don’t have any numbers because we haven’t had people on the ground.”  Shafik noted that the last IMF visit to Syria occurred in January-February 2011.  “For security reasons” the IMF has not sent a team to the country since.

Shafik added that the stock market has slumped 40 percent, saying, “The fact that the stock market has fallen by 40 percent is an important indicator of what has happened to businesses.”

“The impact that sanctions will have on oil exports for Syria will be the most immediate,” Shafik continued.  She mentioned that Libya’s GDP fell 60 percent when it stopped exporting oil during its own turmoil, but added, “Oil is a much bigger part of the Libyan economy than it is for Syria.  But still, for Syria it is a major foreign exchange earner and a big revenue earner for the government.”

The sanctions that have hit Syria’s economy are expected to cause “significant” contraction in 2012, according to the head of the IMF’s Middle East, North Africa, Gulf, and Central Asia department, Masood Ahmed.  While the EU has already implemented several rounds of sanctions to pressure al-Assad to halt his deadly repression of the 14-month uprising, sanctions are expected to continue.

The EU used to be the primary importer of Syrian oil, obtaining 95 percent of the total, but banned Syrian crude oil imports in September.