The director of the Damascus Chamber of Commerce, Amer Kharboutli, announced that the number of members and payers of their annual fees in the chamber had decreased from 9,789 traders in the period from 8/1/2018 to 28/2/2018 to 5,232 during the same period in the current year—that is, a decrease of 46.55 percent, meaning that 4,557 traders had not renewed their membership. As a result, its revenues dropped to 36 million Syrian pounds this year, from 121.7 million pounds last year.
Kharboutli said that the decision, which stipulated that traders register with the chamber before they gained a commercial registry was a very positive decision and that it had created a significant boost to the chamber’s revenues at one point, but that today there was a notable decline. He added that it may be possible to avoid this decline to some extent by offering new services, including training, activities and certificates of origin, in an attempt to fix this decline and for the chamber to remain representative of the majority of traders of various segments, levels and activities.
According to the Trade Law in Syria, and as part of instructions from the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, everyone who practices commercial activities whether they are wholesale, retail, import, export, tenders or general trading, and even industry and services that fall within the concept of commercial activity, needs a commercial registry, and to have a commercial registry, they need to register with the Chamber of Commerce.
Kharboutli said that there were some traders who had not obtained a commercial registry and they were subject to the penalty of law because of the violation. He said that the necessary measures for the commercial registry were not difficult, nor was registry in social insurance. But without, it could make it difficult for individual business, such as shops and retailers, to have an employee or worker.
He said that the number of members had increased last March compared with January and February, which resulted in the chamber’s revenues continuing to rise. This was due to the ability of many traders to register their workers for insurance and to obtain the necessary documents. The other reason was the one-stop service and followup office by chamber employees who go to the social insurance to register the trader’s workers without additional costs. He said that there was a process to facilitate registering employees and workers for social insurance, and that at the start of the year there were difficulties due to the surprise factor for traders of needing to register for social insurance to enable them to obtain the commercial registry.
Kharboutli said that the number of members in the chamber was not expected to reach the same numbers as last year by the end of this year, and that a loss of between 30-40 percent was anticipated.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.