Youssef al-Asfar, chairman of the Hama Chamber of Industry, has spoken to Athr Press about the suffering of “traders,” as he described them. Asfar explained that traders account for a large portion of prison inmates following violations of laws on rationing, especially minor violations of Decree 8 of 2021 [which prohibits market manipulation]. Asfar previously learned that traders comprise about 25% of all prison inmates. He hopes that the penalty for these offences will become purely financial, with an increased maximum fine. This is because, in Asfar’s view, this would provide a greater deterrent than prison sentences.
Asfar highlighted another hardship: fuel shortages, which forces traders to buy diesel on the black market for 7,000 Syrian pounds per litre. Some traders have not received a litre of diesel for three months, a trend that has come alongside long-term electricity rationing. “How is free diesel on the markets, yet there is no officially provided diesel?”
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Asfar pointed to another suffering — which he also described as “fundamental” — namely, the difficulty of securing foreign exchange to purchase imports. In addition, traders must deal with extra financial and taxation expenses that do not tally with the reality of the commercial situation. This forces traders to buy inputs at non-commercial prices, thus driving up costs very significantly.
Dr. Zafer al-Koko, the secretary of the Hama Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview with Athr Press that he hopes traders’ opinions will be taken into account when making decisions related to their work. This input should be invited before issuing the relevant decisions to avoid some negative effects. In particular, traders should participate in decisions made by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Internal Trade & Consumer Protection.
Koko called on the government to increase the salaries of public sector employees, which would improve the living standards of both employees and traders, not to mention overall society. At the same time, some traders warned of more abnormal price increases during the coming period — which will add to the current alarming price hikes — due to traders’ hardships. In their opinion, these commercial hardships can lead to a shortage of available materials and worrying declines in the availability of essential goods. This development would harm both traders and consumers. The latter would also face rising prices for goods due to increased production costs.
The Hama Chamber of Commerce has 450 registered merchants, with specialized committees in various commercial professions in the city, as well as sectoral committees in the governorate’s rural areas.
This article was translated and edited 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.