For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.
Syria has been plagued by a devastating war since 2011. According to a study published by the World Bank, the conflict caused a contraction of the GDP by more than 50% compared to 2010 (World Bank), and the humanitarian crisis has claimed more than 500,000 victims. Beyond the immediate impact of the conflict, the economy suffers from the compounding effects of the pandemic, adverse weather events, regional fragility, and macroeconomic instability. However, it is extremely difficult to assess the financial health of the country as the wartime GDP can be very unstable due to foreign aid and continued destruction. The return of several provinces under the control of the Bashar Al-Assad regime was expected to restore certain stability necessary for the start of reconstruction and economic recovery; however, the Lebanese crisis, the new sanctions imposed by the United States and the outbreak of COVID-19 further deteriorated the situation. After an estimated contraction of 2.6% in 2022 (to USD 15.5 billion in constant 2015 prices), real GDP is expected to contract further in 2023 (World Bank).
With the help of his Russian and Iranian allies, Bashar Al-Assad has regained control of most of the Syrian territory and considers himself victorious in an essentially ended war. But the country is in ruins, the destruction of the physical capital being estimated at around USD 120 billion, and the estimated loss in GDP at nearly 325 billion USD (UNESCWA). Overall, the estimates of reconstruction costs of Syria’s productive capacity range between USD 250 billion to 400 billion (Coface); nevertheless, the long-awaited reconstruction does not materialize. Businesses face energy and water shortages and are regularly shaken by liquidity constraints. International sanctions have practically frozen trade with the outside world and neighbouring partner countries (Iran, Lebanon) are facing economic and political difficulties. Impacted by the Lebanese crisis, tougher U.S. sanctions under the Caesar Act and the COVID-19 pandemic, Syria's economy deteriorated further since 2020. Given Syria’s heavy reliance on imports, currency falls quickly fed into higher domestic prices, causing high inflation: according to a report by the World Bank, annual inflation reached 90% in 2021, after hitting 114% in 2020. Meanwhile, government spending continued to be constrained by low revenues and the lack of access to financing. The current account of Syria is expected to remain firmly in deficit because of an extremely high trade deficit, contributing to the drain of foreign exchange reserves.
On the humanitarian level, the situation is catastrophic. About 6.2 million people have been internally displaced and 5.6 million are officially registered as refugees (World Bank). The social situation of the country was already serious before the crisis: a third of the population lived below the poverty line, unemployment affected 20% of the population (75% of the unemployed were aged 15 to 24) and the demographic growth rate was very high (3.3% per year). Since the start of the war, the situation has only gotten worse. The middle class has disappeared: according to UN estimates, more than 80% of the population now lives below the poverty line and half of the population is unemployed (CIA Factbook). Essential goods and services, including food, clothing, housing, and fuel, account for about three-fourths of the consumption basket, with food alone accounting for about 40% of consumption. According to the World Food Program, 12.4 million Syrian are now food insecure, almost 60% of the country’s population. Moreover, Syria’s working-age population has significantly shrunk, particularly in its male component; however, the impact of this demographic shock has been compensated by an increase in labour force participation, leaving the overall number of employed Syrians almost unchanged at around 5.2 million (World Bank). The number of women entering the labour market recorded a steep increase, almost doubling from 13% in 2010 to 26% in 2021. Syria’s human and physical capital has been severely affected by the conflict, whose structural implications are likely to affect the country’s future growth prospects.
|Main Indicators||2020||2021||2022 (E)||2023 (E)||2024 (E)|
|GDP (billions USD)||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|GDP per Capita (USD)||0||0||0||0||0|
|General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|Inflation Rate (%)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|Current Account (billions USD)||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Current Account (in % of GDP)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, Latest data available.
Note : (E) Estimated data
Syria’s long civil war has caused the near collapse of the economic output. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed and the economic sanctions are limiting access to financing. The Lebanese crisis, the tougher sanctions introduced by the Caesar Act and the COVID-19 outbreak further impacted all economic sectors.
Agriculture represents around 36.6 of its GDP and is estimated to employ 10% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available); agriculture has always been a fragile sector since it directly depends on climate conditions and especially on water scarcity, a key regional factor. Spices, olive and olive oil, cotton, wheat and barley are among the main crops and exports. In 2021, a decline in irrigated land area, low precipitation, and fuel shortages adversely affected wheat crops. The latest figures from FAO show that in the 2021/22 crop season, wheat production was estimated at around 1.1 million tonnes, with a marginal improvement compared to the 2021 harvest, but still one‑quarter of the pre‑crisis average of 4.1 million tonnes (2002‑2011). At 300,000 tonnes, barley production was about 15% of the plentiful harvests gathered in 2019 and 2020 and less than 40% of the pre‑crisis average.
Industry had a relatively important place, owing to textile, chemical and oil industries, the latter representing 14% of the Syrian GDP prior to the war. Industry, as a whole, accounts for 22.1% of the economy and employs around 23% of the workforce (World Bank). The hydrocarbon sector is essential to the Syrian economy and contributes up to 65% of the country’s exports. Since the start of the conflict, industrial production declined, affected by shortages in fuel and power, limited access to capital, severe destruction of infrastructure, and the relocation of major manufacturing bases.
The tertiary sector, mainly the tourism sector, was well established before the civil war and currently represents 41.3% of GDP (World Bank). Despite the war, a number of foreign banks are still operating. The sector of services is estimated to employ 67% of the workforce (World Bank).
|Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector||Agriculture||Industry||Services|
|Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment)||10.1||23.2||66.7|
|Value Added (in % of GDP)||36.6||22.1||41.3|
|Value Added (Annual % Change)||2.8||-14.8||-3.0|
Source: World Bank, Latest data available.
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The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.
The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).
The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.
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Latest Update: September 2023