As the value of the Syrian pound deteriorates due to the economic crisis hitting the country, shop owners in the capital, Damascus, are requesting annual rent for their shops in US dollars instead of the Syrian pound.
Tenants of these shops face difficulty in securing dollars. The Syrian regime’s government is imposing severe penalties for dealing without the use of Syrian pounds. It is also tightening its control over currency exchange companies operating on the black market, forcing many of them to look for alternative ways to secure their rents in dollars.
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Abed, a 40-year-old man, told Syria TV that he used to pay rent of his restaurant in the center of the capital, Damascus, in Syrian pounds. Three months ago, the shop owner told him that he wanted to rent in dollars, noting that other tenants had begun paying their rent in dollars months ago.
Abed, who runs a fast-food restaurant in the al-Shaalan neighbourhood, said his shop rents are $700 per month. He is obliged to pay the rent in advance annually as a single block of $8,400. He added, “I now work as a currency exchanger, so I can secure that amount in dollars.”
To secure the amount, Abed relies on the exchange of small amounts of money for people close to him, by discharging their incoming remittances from abroad through the black market throughout the year. In other cases, he resorts to buying dollars from black market money changers at a high price
Direct impact on people
Despite the regime’s ban on the sale and purchase of the U.S. dollar, and the law prohibiting the payment of rent allowances in foreign currency, several tenants of shops, restaurants, and clinics in markets and main areas of Damascus have confirmed the payment of rental allowances in dollars instead of Syrian pounds.
Pediatrician Jamal, who rents a clinic in the White Bridge area, says the owner earns $12,000 in annual rent as a lump sum. She argues that it is located on the main street, according to Syria TV.
Doctor Jamal adds, “We used to have high rent prices. Today we have a problem of paying it in dollars,” noting that “the consequences of this problem will affect people directly.”
In early 2020, the Syrian regime government passed a law that criminalizes dealing in any other foreign currency as a means of payment and financial trading in Syria. It imposed penalties ranging from temporary hard labour for a period of no less than seven years and a fine equivalent to twice the value of the payments or the amount dealt or paid, or services offered.
This article was edited and translated by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.