Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Regional Crises Threaten Syrians with an Icy Winter

Regional Crises Threaten Syrians with an Icy Winter

Monday, 18 November, 2019 - 09:00
A woman walks past destroyed buildings in the regime-controlled part of Homs, Syria, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Um Jaber, voiced her desperation after failing to convert 50 Euros into Syrian pounds. She usually relies on her neighbor to help her exchange the monthly allowance sent in from her granddaughter in Germany.

“My neighbor usually helps me convert currencies when my granddaughter sends money; but this time, he was gone for two days only to let me know that all his acquaintances had turned him down on buying the foreign currency,” Um Jaber, 80, said voicing her frustration and need for local currency to buy medicine.

Foreign exchange is usually frozen in the event of an accelerated rise in currency prices.

This takes place as the Syrian pound continues to decline sharply against the dollar, which reached its highest level in 70 years, exceeding the threshold of 720 Syrian pounds.

The fall in the lira has exacerbated a host of living struggles for Syrians. As the fuel crisis began in Aleppo and the coastal provinces, gas and fuel queues filled the streets over fears of witnessing a repeat of last winter’s petrol crisis that also caused long power cuts.

If electricity rationing increases amid a shortage of fuel, then "we could be witnessing a harsh winter," said Naji, a taxi driver in Damascus.

Meanwhile, a new wave of price increases for the majority of living commodities has swept the Damascus market, which witnessed a 20 percent markup.

Economic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the central bank is expected to announce new measures to ease the demand for the dollar on the black market after the failure of the private sector initiative set up a month ago to support the lira and curb its sharp decline.

They also pointed out that tensions in neighboring Lebanon had added to the currency crisis in Syria. As protests erupted in Lebanon, the rate of money transfers had greatly went down.

The exchange market in Syria has also recently witnessed an increase in the demand for the dollar, due to its unavailability in Lebanon. The deposits of Syrians in Lebanese banks are estimated at more than $30 billion in Lebanon.

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