3 mln Syrians jobless amid harsh living conditions

3 mln Syrians jobless amid harsh living conditions
# 03 August 2013 03:39 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. About 3 million of Syria's 23 million residents have lost their jobs in the Syrian crisis, as the country lost its main economic lifelines and suffered a severe economic downturn, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

In its report for the first quarter of 2013, the Syrian Center for Policy Research said that the unemployment rate rose to 48.8 percent.

The report, issued with the cooperation of the United Nations for Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), revealed that the number of unemployed amounted to 2.965 million.

The report echoed another report released last month by the head of the General Federation of Trade Unions Shaaban Azzouz, which put the number of workers who lost their jobs during the Syrian crisis at about 3 million.

An earlier report released by the Syrian Center for Policy Research in February said that about half a million of Syria's elite workers have lost their jobs over the past two years, adding that the Syrians, who have voluntarily left the country, are estimated at around 1.33 million.

The number of unemployed in Syria until the end of 2012 stood at about 2.653 million, while the figure rose to 2.965 million in the first quarter of this year, according to the report. This means that about 300,000 workers joined the ranks of the unemployed in the first quarter of this year.

The figure sends alarming signals in this war-torn country, as the main lifelines of its economy -- agriculture, tourism and oil - - are drained up, and inflation hit record levels.

The figure has also been released amid warnings that the country might soon witness a revolution of the hungry, as prices of foodstuff dramatically soar and the purchasing value of the Syrian pound declines.

The unprecedented surge in the prices caused a nationwide outcry, prompting the government to intervene in the market and pump millions of U.S. dollars to help sustain the exchange rate of the Syrian pound.

The government has succeeded in improving the exchange rate from 325 pounds to 1 dollar to 200 pounds in the black market in less than a month. Yet, prices are still high and beyond the reach of most Syrians.

Some observers held the government's wrong policies responsible for the hike in foodstuff prices and accused it of wasting the treasury's reserve of hard currency.

Muneir al-Hamash, an economic analyst, told local media that the state's reserve of hard currency should be used to import the most important consumer commodities and that the government should preserve its reserves of hard currency as much as possible to strengthen the monetary situation in Syria.

He said that government should work on the revitalization of retail government trade and find effective coordination between the monetary and fiscal policies and work on maintaining balance between these two policies in order to reduce inflation and find financial resources to the state treasury.

Financial analyst Abed Fadhliyah told local al-Iqtissadi website that the decline in the purchasing power of the Syrian pound was due to lack of an overall monetary policy that is linked to other financial, economic and social policies.

He indicated that the government has taken partial and sporadic measures toward changes in the market, adding that those measures are characterized by being slow and non-continuous, a matter which weakens their effectiveness and raises concern and doubts among people.

He said that those measures backfired sometimes and unintentionally strengthened the position of speculators, increased their exploitation of market conditions and made them significantly control the exchange rate.

Fadhliyah said that the dollar exchange rate played a role in the value of the Syrian pound and its purchasing power, deploring the lack of an efficient government plan to control markets so far.

He also raised doubts over the government's ability to reduce prices, contending that prices have been linked with the dollar, when it's getting upward, and even if the dollar's exchange rate decreases, the prices will remain high owing to the lack of control on markets.

He underlined the need of adopting a definite and clear policy to reduce the dollar's exchange rate through the revitalization of the production cycle and the increase of mass commodity in markets in order to create real competition that would force producers themselves and traders to reduce prices.

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