Economic Growth in Syria ‘Illusory and Incorrect’: Expert

Government source reveals Syria’s 2015 trade deficit reached about $2.6 billion, proving that claims of economic growth are false, according to financial experts

Syria’s trade deficit in 2015 reached about 1.3 trillion Syrian pounds, about $2.6 billion, Al-Watan has learned from a government source familiar with the imports and exports file.

The value of imports that entered Syria during 2015 reached more than 1.5 trillion Syria pounds while the volume of these imports reached more than 11 million tons.

With regards to exports, the source said that what had been exported during 2015 reached about 200 billion Syrian pounds, at a weight of more than 4 million tons. Imports from Arab countries to Syria during 2015 reached more than 295 billion Syrian pounds, and regarding exports to Arab countries, they reached about 150 billion Syrian pounds.

The source said that these numbers were recorded in the report of a number of agencies, including the bodies responsible for customs, commerce, economy and foreign trade, whereby the monetary value of imports and exports is recorded in Syrian pounds and accounted for on the basis of the general customs bulletin.

In comments to Al-Watan, a professor of economics at the University of Damascus, Dr. Shafiq Arbash — also the previous head of the Central Bureau for Statistics — said that this gap in the trade deficit was an indication that the economic growth in 2015 that was discussed was illusory and relatively incorrect, as this gap put pressure on the exchange rate of the Syrian pound. This, he said, was due to the fact that all import financing operations were done in large part through the Syrian central bank or through financing from the parallel market, which affected the price of the Syrian pound against the dollar and led to results on the purchasing power of the Syrian pound.

Arbash also said that converting the deficit number at the current dollar exchange rate, which is about 500 Syrian pounds, will result in about $2.6 billion, a small number compared to Syria’s exports, which reached about $15 billion before the crisis in 2011. He said that the negative impact on this trade deficit will reflect in no small way on the shape of the debts in the public treasury, in addition to the large gap between imports and exports, meaning the production process is nearly stalled. He added that if the export products were to be analyzed we would find they are mostly raw agricultural products, which would clearly be suffering from continuous inflation.

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.

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