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Syrians Despair with Further Collapse in Currency, Price Hikes

Syrians Despair with Further Collapse in Currency, Price Hikes

Wednesday, 3 March, 2021 - 08:30
A baker sells bread in Syria. (AFP file photo)

A further collapse in the Syrian pound has had a disastrous impact on the lives of the people residing in regime-held areas.

The people are already mired in poverty brought about by ten years of war. With the further decline in the pound, came a further rise in prices of goods.

The value of the pound has been dropping sharply on a daily basis for over a week. On Tuesday, it traded at a record low of 3,900 pounds to the dollar on the black market.

For the past three months, the currency had traded steadily at around 2,700 to 2,900 to the dollar, while the official rate was pegged at 1,250.

One black market trader told Asharq Al-Awsat that the collapse in the currency took place despite the authorities’ crackdown on the black market.

He attributed the drop to the high demand for dollars.

Before the eruption of the conflict in 2011, the currency traded at 50 pounds to the dollar.

Regime-held regions are suffering from an economic crisis caused by the conflict and western sanctions, as well as the economic meltdown in neighboring Lebanon. Syrians now have to endure wheat, fuel, oil, gas and medicine shortages and frequent power cuts. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation.

The latest collapse and hike in prices sparked uproar among the people.

Mohammed, 40, told Asharq Al-Awsat the he spends five to seven hours a day waiting in line in front of bakeries to receive a subsidized packet of bread.

He said that along with others, he cannot afford to pay the market price of 1,000 pounds for a packet.

“We are instead forced to endure the government’s humiliation to buy a single packet,” he added.

Samira, a house wife, vented her frustration with the hike in prices that comes with every drop in the value of the pound.

She criticized the government for “standing idly by” as the people suffer.

“People can no longer afford the simplest of things,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Worst of all is that the government is doing nothing to stem the collapse. In fact, it is raising prices whenever the pound drops.”

The latest drop led to a 30 to 35 percent increase in goods. One kilogram of sugar, for example, skyrocketed from 1,300 to 2,500 pounds.

More than 87 percent of people living in regime regions live in poverty, says the UN. The average salary of a high-ranking public official is around 50,000 pounds, while a family needs no less than 600,000 pounds a month to sustain itself.

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