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Assad Grants Government Employees $20, Syrians are Indifferent

The grant by the Syrian regime can barely buy 1.5 kilos of meat in crisis-hit Damascus.
Assad Grants Government Employees $20, Syrians are Indifferent

President Bashar al-Assad issued on Thursday Legislative Decree No. 4 for 2022 that offers a one-time financial grant of SYP 75,000 for the State’s civil, military employees and the retired, Syrian official news agency SANA reported Thursday.

The Syrian currency has collapsed in the past decade due to sanctions on the Assad regime in response to its war against the people.

The Syrian Pound had devaluated constantly. On Thursday one US dollar was equal to SP3850. In 2011 this was equivalent to $47.

The new one-time grant is less than $20.

Syrians are suffering from inflation, lack of electricity, drinking water, and medical services. The Syrian Observer asked Syrians what the grant would help them buy in Damascus.

Lost Interest

Three Syrians spoke on condition of anonymity of fear for their personal safety. Marwan*, a schoolteacher who also works after school as an accountant in a supermarket says, “You can buy three pairs of underwear with this amount.”

He explained that the prices in Syria have become irrational. “This is not merely because of the dollar change rate,” he said. “It is because the merchants are exploiting the situation and there is no government to hold them accountable.”

Read Also: Syrian Products Sold in Neighboring Countries at Cheaper Price

The average salary of a public sector employee is SYP 100,000. Although the new grant is equivalent to 75% of a monthly salary, the Syrians did not show any fervor for the news.

“I lost my interest in anything,” said Abu Maher*, a retired policeman. “Nothing can move me or make me feel zealous. After 30 years of service in the police, I cannot lead a nearly decent life.”

Abu Maher who retired in 2012 as a non-commissioned officer explained that his pension cannot buy him and his family bread and pay the utilities.

“My daughter has lost her husband in the war, and she lives with me now. We cannot afford to live. He added. “Therefore, this grant does not mean a thing to us.”

A pro-regime economic researcher estimated that the minimum wage should be 900,000 Syrian pounds, while the head of the regime sets the minimum wage at 92,970 Syrian pounds, according to the latest decree in this regard. The increase in the minimum wage is possible through borrowing from friends and not by financing in deficit or inflation as was the case previously because it will make the matter worse, he said. A researcher attacked the government team in charge of managing the economic issue and asked it for missing figures and earnings. 

The new grant can help a family buy 1.5 kg of meat, according to Karim*, a lab assistant in Damascus.

“But I am not crazy to buy meat. I might buy half a kilo for the Eid, and then will buy some rice, oil, and other stuff that lasts for a while.”

Will not do anything

Economists say that using today’s black market exchange rate, this bestowal of 75,000 SYP is the equivalent of less than 20 US dollars.

“Even in Syria,” economist Karam Shaar explained, “where prices are, on average, lower than in neighboring countries, that amount is not enough for meeting a fraction of the  basic monthly expenses for a typical family, let alone preparing for Eid celebrations.”

Shaar, Research Director at Operations & Policy Center (OPC), told The Observer that, in a survey conducted by OPC in the city of Damascus where the vast majority of the population live in poverty, nearly two-thirds of households said that they spend over 200,000 SYP per month.

The al-Assad regime continues to use this kind of gesture to reassert its authority over the population: it can give, it can take, and it can decide their fates, Shaar explained.

Syrian cannot even express their discontent on social media now. This week, President Bashar al-Assad issued Law No. 20 to “regulate the criminal legal rules for cybercrime.”

The new law increases the penalty of these “crimes” up to 15 years in prison and SYP 25 million, which is equal to 250 times the average monthly salary of the Syrians who have jobs.  

Human rights defenders criticized the new law, rejecting it as another burden on the Syrian population. “It closes the only window left for the Syrians to breathe,” human rights defender Bassam al-Ahmad told The Observer.

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