On Saturday, in a large hall in the Sheraton Hotel in central Damascus, a meeting was held for major Syrian businessmen—the “titans” of business and finance in the Syrian economy, which has been drained by eight years of war. The meeting was not publicly announced ahead of time, and coincided with a severe and unprecedented collapse in the Syrian pound with the Syrian Central Bank unable to intervene because it has lost all the tools and components it could use in these conditions.
Among the Syrian businessmen who attended the meeting were Samer Foz, whose name is included on the American sanctions list; the president of the board of directors of the Damascus Countryside Chamber of Commerce, Wassim Qatan; and the businessman Mohamed Hamshou; the head of the Damascus Chamber of Industry, Samer al-Dabas; as well as other figures such as Baraa Qaterji.
Economic analyst Firas Shaabou told Alsouria Net that the meeting, which was called the “Initiative to Support the Syrian Pound”, could affect the exchange rate of the Syrian pound, but only for a specific period, “because the Syrian economy is suffering from a disturbance in terms of stability and components. It lacks fundamental elements, such as oil, gas, and agricultural, customs and tax resources, which comprised the essence of economic life.”
Shaabou added that: “Therefore, the initiatives serves as support and aid and not treatment. Therefore, it could have a preliminary effect, but in the medium or short term, the exchange rate will go back to falling again.”
According to Shaabou, the initiative aimed to, “pressure Syrian businessmen, because the Central Bank is no longer fully able to intervene. This is a signal for Syrian businessmen to intervene to support the Syrian pound, while the Central Bank is powerless.”
Shaabou said that “the problem is bigger than an initiative.” The problem is in the structure of the economy and the grip and hegemony of security over the economy.
The economic analyst connected the meeting with the corruption campaigns that the Assad regime has spoken of in recent days. He believed the meeting was, “bigger than a personal initiative by businessmen, even if it also came in the first days of the Syrian pound’s deterioration.”
In the same context, economic analyst Younes al-Kareem believed that the Syrian businessmen’ initiative was only that “in name and for the media more than a reality.”
He told Alsouria Net that the amount that had been discussed—10 million dollars—was a small amount compared to the money that businessmen had obtained over the last three years from the increase of the dollar’s exchange rate. He said that Samer Foz had taken loans from The Syria International Islamic Bank and that at that time the exchange rate had been affected. Businessmen Wassim al-Qatan has invested in a number of malls, and he had a major impact as well on the exchange rate.
Kareem adds that, “the truth which can’t be escaped is that the exchange rate needs six billion dollars to be stabilized, and no more than tens of millions are available. So if the price falls now it will be a passing fall.”
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.