Economic and Political Overview

flag Syria Syria: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Outline | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Outline

Economic Overview

Syria has been plagued by a devastating war since 2011. According to a study published by the World Bank, the conflict caused a cumulative GDP loss of about USD 226 billion only between 2011 and 2016, about four times Syria’s pre-war GDP, and the humanitarian crisis has claimed more than 600,000 victims. Beyond the immediate impact of the conflict, the economy suffers from the compounding effects of 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 (extended in 2024) and the earthquake that shook the country in February 2023 resulting in a total estimated impact of USD 5.2 billion, further deteriorated the situation. The latest Syria Economic Monitor, published before the earthquake, pointed to a GDP contraction of 3.2% in 2023, following a 3.5% decline in 2022. Inflation was expected to decrease but persist at elevated levels throughout 2023, driven by exchange rate pass-through, ongoing shortages of food and fuel, and additional reductions in subsidies.

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. Since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, macroeconomic conditions have significantly worsened. With almost half of the oil consumption and approximately one-third of cereal consumption imported, elevated commodity prices resulting from the Ukrainian conflict have eroded fiscal and external standings while driving inflation. The surge in prices for essential goods has prompted a more stringent fiscal policy. The already precarious situation of Syrian households has escalated, as reflected in heightened vulnerability. This rise in vulnerability has coincided with an uptick in labour force participation, particularly among workers on the fringes of the labour market, including women, youth, and the elderly, who face limited earning prospects. 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 a high trade deficit, contributing to the drain of foreign exchange reserves.

On the humanitarian level, the situation is catastrophic. About 13 million people have been internally displaced and 6.7 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. 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 Syrians 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 partly compensated by an increase in labour force participation.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 0.000.000.000.000.00
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 0.00.00.00.00.0
GDP per Capita (USD) 00000
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 0.00.00.00.00.0
Inflation Rate (%) n/a0.00.00.00.0
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 0.00.00.00.00.0
Current Account (billions USD) 0.000.000.000.000.00
Current Account (in % of GDP) 0.00.00.00.00.0

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, Latest data available.

Note : (E) Estimated data

 

Main Sectors of Industry

Agriculture represents around 27.8% of Syria’s GDP and is estimated to employ 12% 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 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform reported successful wheat cultivation, yielding 1.093 million tons from 517,000 hectares. Barley cultivation covered 449,000 hectares, producing 409,000 tons. Sweet corn cultivation expanded to 79,000 hectares, yielding 561,000 tons. Additionally, cotton planting covered 7,175 hectares, yielding 15,000 tons. The total number of greenhouses reached 192,286, with 178,593 in the production phase for various vegetables, greens, and bananas. The year also saw significant olive production at 380,604 tons, along with 195,650 tons of grapes, 216,181 tons of apples, and 841,255 tons of citrus fruits.

Industry as a whole accounts for 28.9% of the economy and employs around 22% 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 public sector has a prominent role in the Syrian industry: during 2023, the entirety of the Ministry of Industry's institutions and associated entities achieved sales amounting to SYP 2.772 trillion, with pre-tax profits totalling SYP 350 billion and after-tax profits reaching SYP 250 billion. Syria's public industrial sector is experiencing structural changes, with governmental consideration of various mergers. As an example, in early January 2024, two entities were merged under a newly established General Company for Cement and Building Materials Manufacture and Marketing.

The Syrian tertiary sector encompasses a range of industries including retail, tourism, telecommunications, finance, and healthcare, playing a pivotal role in the country's economy. Overall, the sector accounts for 43.3% of GDP and 65% of total employment. Before the 2011 uprising, tourism stood as one of Syria's most rapidly advancing economic sectors. By 2010, the country welcomed 9.45 million visitors, making tourism the second-largest foreign currency earner after oil exports, contributing approximately 13.7% to the nation's GDP. Despite over a decade of conflict and widespread destruction, the Syrian government is reasserting efforts to position tourism as a significant economic asset. This is evidenced by the construction of new luxury hotels, notably in seaside areas and Aleppo.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 12.5 22.2 65.4
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.

 

Find more information about your business sector on our service Market Reports.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

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.

Score:
N/A/100
World Rank:
N/A
Regional Rank:
N/A

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of the Economy
Ministry of Finance (in Arabic)
Statistical Office
Central Bureau of Statistics
Central Bank
Central Bank of Syria (in Arabic)
Stock Exchange
Damascus Securities Exchange
Other Useful Resources
Nations Online
Syria Report
Main Online Newspapers
Syrian Arab News Agency
The Syria Times
The Syrian Observer
Economic Portals
Library of Congress
Dmoz
Araboo

Return to top

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Bashar al-Assad (since July 2000, re-elected in May 2021)
Vice President : Najah al-Attar (since March 2006)
Prime Minister: Hussein Arnous (since 30 August 2020)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2028
Legislative: 2024
Current Political Context
Syria has been experiencing a devastating war since 2011, in which neighbouring countries or groups and major powers, including Turkey, Iran, the United States, Russia, and their allies are involved. Supported by Russia and Iran, but still under sanctions from the United States and European countries, Bashar al-Assad's regime has taken over a large part of the country, but the clashes continue. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah provide the military and logistical support necessary to maintain the Damascus regime.
In the 2021 presidential elections, Bashar al-Assad obtained 95.2% of the total votes, securing a fourth seven-year presidential term. Improved diplomatic and economic ties with the neighbouring countries, notably Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, led some analysts to think that the normalization process may cause Damascus to demonstrate less commitment to the political track (Security Council Report). The country is in a dire situation, exacerbated by the United States Caesar Act sanctions package, which was extended through the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act voted in 2024.
In March 2023, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reshuffled the government's cabinet in response to rising prices and food shortages exacerbated by the country's severe economic crisis, compounded by the February 6th earthquake. In early May 2023, Syria was allowed back into the regional cooperation body, the Arab League after being suspended from the body for more than a decade, as members of the Arab League said there was no other solution but to deal directly with the Assad government again.
In September, President Bashar al-Assad visited China, where he met with President Xi Jinping and endorsed a strategic partnership with China concerning infrastructure, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. In January 2024, Israel launched attacks on positions in Syria and Lebanon, as part of its ongoing campaign against opposing militaries and armed forces in the Middle East, further exacerbating the crisis in the area.
Main Political Parties
The main political coalition in power in Syria, the National Progressive Front (FNP), brings together parties supporting the nationalist and socialist policies of President Al-Assad.
It regroups :
- Party "Baath", or Socialist Party of the Arab Renaissance: party of President Assad, in power since 1949
- Syrian Social Nationalist Party: advocates for Syrian nationalism and pan-Arabism, emphasizing secularism and the unity of Syrian territory.
- Party of Unionist Socialists: promotes socialist principles and unionism within Syrian society, focusing on social justice and workers' rights.
- The Communist Party of Syria: represents Marxist ideology and advocates for the interests of the working class and marginalized groups.
- Social Democratic Unionists: emphasizes social democracy and aims to balance market economics with social welfare policies in Syria.
- National Vow Movement: a nationalist movement in Syria dedicated to the preservation of Syrian identity and sovereignty.
- Arab Democratic Union: works towards democracy, Arab unity, and social justice within Syria, advocating for political pluralism and human rights.

Amendments to the Constitution theoretically allow the existence of a multiparty system, removing the clause imposing the Baath Party at the head of the state and society. Despite this, the May 2012 elections, which took place in the midst of a rebellion against the government, were largely boycotted by the main opposition parties. The latter have long survived in hiding or in exile, like the Islamist or Kurdish parties, which the Constitution prohibits in the name of their religious or sectarian character.
The main opposition party is the Syrian National Council (SNC), also referred to as the Syrian National Transitional Council or the National Council of Syria, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups established in August 2011 amidst the Syrian civil uprising, which later evolved into a civil war, opposing the government led by Bashar al-Assad. The council operates from Istanbul, Turkey.
Type of State
Syria is a republic officially based on a parliamentary democracy, although it is dominated by an authoritarian regime.
Executive Power
The President is the head of state. He is elected by popular referendum for seven years. The president is the commander-in-chief of the army and holds executive power. It can declare war, issue laws, amend the constitution and appoint civilian and military personnel. He also appoints the Prime Minister (head of government) and his Council of Ministers, for as long as he wishes.
Legislative Power

The legislative power is unicameral in Syria. The parliament is called the People's Council (Majlis al-Shaab). It has 250 seats and its members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Syria has been under a state of emergency since 1963, which gives the President special powers.

The assembly convenes at least thrice annually, and on special occasions summoned by either the council's president or the country's president. Prior to 2012, the council predominantly functioned as a body to endorse Syria's single-party system and affirm the legislative activities of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party.

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

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.).

World Rank:
173/180

Source: World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

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.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7
Civil Liberties:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

Return to top

COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Syria please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.

 

© eexpand, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: February 2024