Syria now a ‘country of poor people’

May 30, 2014 - 3:16:58 am
Civil Defence members, rebel fighters and civilians search for survivors at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad in Al Qarlaq neighbourhood of Aleppo, yesterday.

BEIRUT: Three years of civil war in Syria have had a disastrous effect on the economy, plunging half the population into poverty, a Syrian research centre said in a report released yesterday.

“Squandering Humanity” was produced by the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Policy Research in conjunction with the UN Development Programme and the UN Palestinian refugee agency.

It says the conflict is creating “economies of violence that flout human rights, civil liberties, poverty rights and the rule of law.”

New elites “trade illegally in weapons, commodities and people, while often engaged in pillage, theft, kidnapping and exploitation of humanitarian assistance.”

In the end, “Syria has become a country of poor people afflicted by a ruinous descent into poverty,” the report says.

Three-quarters of the population is living in poverty and 54.3 percent in extreme poverty, it said.

Even worse, some 20 percent of people were living in “abject poverty,” with those in “conflict zones and besieged areas facing hunger, malnutrition and starvation.”

Poverty is a reflection of unemployment, which has surged from 10.3 percent in 2011 to 54.3 percent at the end of 2013. A total of 2.7 million people lost their jobs, affecting 11 million who depended on them.

Geographically, joblessness was said to be highest in the northeast, in Hasakeh and Raqa provinces, reaching 65 percent in the latter.

Fourth quarter private consumption plunged 25.5 percent from a year earlier, with spending focused almost exclusively on food and, for the almost 45 percent of people who have fled their homes, on rent.

And that has been made all the more difficult by an astronomical 178 percent rise in prices since 2011.

GDP has fallen by 41 percent since the crisis began, equivalent to a loss of $70.9bn.

At the same time, the structure has altered sharply, with most of GDP now represented by domestic trade and government services, while agriculture and industry have slumped.

At the same time, military spending has soared from 1.7 percent of GDP in 2011 to 15.9 percent last year.

The educational system was said to be on the verge of ruin, with 4,000 schools destroyed, damaged or being used to house the internally displaced.

The report said that, nationwide, just over half (51.8 percent) of school age children were not going to school. But that figure reached 90 percent in Raqa and Aleppo provinces, and 68 percent in the Damascus provincial countryside.

As for the healthcare infrastructure, the report said 61 out 91 public hospitals had been damaged, and 45 percent of them were out of service altogether.

The sector has been further hit by healthcare personnel fleeing or being killed and by the collapse of the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.

The report said the overall death toll at the end of 2013 was 130,000, a figure rising to 520,000 if the wounded and maimed were added.

The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army yesterday urged Syrians to boycott Tuesday’s presidential election, calling it a “farce” run by a “criminal” regime.

The vote, which will be held only in territory controlled by the regime, is expected to see President Bashar Al Assad trounce two little-known rivals and gain a third seven-year mandate.

“O Syrians, historical duty, true patriotism and fears over the dangers threatening Syria and Syrians dictate that we must foil this farce by boycotting it completely,” said General Abdullah Al Bashir.


Regime rains barrel bombs on Aleppo

BEIRUT: Syrian forces rained barrels bombs on Aleppo yesterday as they pressed a campaign against rebels in the northern city where dozens have been killed this week, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said jihadist fighters executed 15 civilians in the northeastern province of Hasakeh.

The Observatory said two people were killed in a raid that struck the rebel-held Aleppo neighbourhood of Al Shaar.

Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on several districts that are in rebel hands, the monitoring group said.

Barrel bombs killed at least 58 civilians on Tuesday and Wednesday, including 15 children, while seven civilians were killed on Monday.

Aleppo has been split into areas held by the regime and opposition since shortly after fighting broke out in Syria’s former economic hub in 2012.

In Hasakeh, at least seven children were among those shot dead by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near the town of Ras Al Ain, the Observatory said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said it was not clear what prompted the killings, which he described as a “war crime.”