At a market in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, Manal browses a shoe store with her husband and three girls. Her expression soon turns to shock when she sees the prices. Any piece costs at least 10,000 Syrian pounds. She strives to find anything cheaper, but fails.
Like other shoppers, she is left to wonder in shock at the collapse in the pound and consequent rise in prices as the country prepares to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, she said that if she purchases three items for her daughters, she would end up spending 30,000 pounds. “What about money for clothes and Eid sweets?” she asked. “Our budget is limited.” Her husband, Salman, works for the local administration for a monthly salary of 80,000 pounds (less than 50 dollars). He said that the prices of sweets range between 5,000 to at least 15,000 pounds. “At these prices, how are we supposed to celebrate Eid?”
The hike in prices has impacted the purchasing power of large segments of society. Business owners attributed the spike to the fluctuation in the exchange rate of foreign currencies. At one point the pound was trading at 2,000 to the dollar, before dropping to 1,650.
Abduljalil, a Qamishli native, works for a government department for a monthly wage of 50,000 pounds (30 dollars). He expressed his shock at the spike in costs, saying it was useless to search for anything cheap. “During previous Eid celebrations, we used to clamor to buy the best sweets, desserts and clothes. But this year’s Eid, all I can do is watch the prices rise,” he lamented.
He is thankful for one of his children who resides in a European country and sends him money every month. “Without him, my salary would not last me a week. The prices are crazy,” he said.
The high prices have dampened the Eid cheer. Khaled, a children’s clothes store owners, explained that the price hike was due to the high exchange rate against the dollar and the United States’ imminent implementation of the Caesar Act.
“A large number of our goods come from Damascus and Aleppo. The prices have skyrocketed since the eruption of the Rami Makhlouf crisis,” he added. “There are no real solutions to overcome the crisis. The majority of the people have just opted to not buy new clothes for Eid, and chose to instead buy essentials, such as food.”
Meanwhile, the autonomous authority urged the international community to take into consideration the impact the Caesar Act will have on areas under its control. In a statement, it held the Syrian regime responsible for the deteriorating economy by still pursuing violence and rejecting dialogue.
“Such an approach has weighed heavily on all aspects of life, including the economy through US sanctions that will be imposed on Syria,” it added. The Caesar Act will affect the whole of Syria, including the autonomous region.
Fawza Youssef, member of the Executive Board of the Democratic Society, said Damascus has two choices. “It can either accept the political solution and end the stifling crisis or endure what Baghdad had to go through when Saddam Hussein was slapped with sanctions in the 1990s, which depleted his power and led to his overthrow in 2003,” she remarked.
She said the autonomous region will be confronted with a new test as the Caesar Act goes into effect. “It has succeeded in overcoming several crises, such as ISIS, and it is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It is also defending itself against the fierce onslaught by Turkey and its allied factions.”