Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low

Author: 
AFP
ID: 
1575370285917323300
Tue, 2019-12-03 10:36

DAMASCUS: The value of the Syrian pound on the black market sank
to 1,000 to the dollar at some money changers Tuesday, marking a
new record low for the nosediving currency.
The drop comes amid a spiraling liquidity crunch in neighboring
Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for foreign currency
entering the heavily sanctioned government-held areas of Syria.
One currency exchange office in the Syrian capital Damascus said he
was selling dollars on the black market for 1,000 pounds for the
first time on Tuesday.
A specialized website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the
dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds
posted by the central bank on its website.
At the start of the war in 2011, the rate stood at around 48 pounds
to the dollar.
In the Old City of Damascus, a trader who preferred not to give his
name said everything from food to transport had become more
expensive in recent weeks.
“Prices have doubled in the past two months,” the trader
said.
“Everybody prices their items according to the new dollar
exchange rate” on the black market, he explained.
Syria analyst Samuel Ramani said the pound had fallen by 30 percent
since anti-government protests erupted in Lebanon on October
17.
An economic downturn has accelerated since the protests started,
and a liquidity crunch has become more acute in a country that has
long served as an economic and financial lifeline for
dollar-starved Syrian businesses.
As Western sanctions tightened on Syria during the war, many in the
country have opened businesses in neighboring Lebanon, stashed
their money in its banks and used the country as a conduit for
imports.
But Lebanese banks started introducing controls on dollar
withdrawals over the summer, straining the supply of the greenback
to Syrian markets.
“Lebanese banks are significant for Syria’s economy as they
give Syria back door access to the US dollar,” he said.
“Based on commentaries from Syrian businesspeople, it appears as
if the economic crisis in Syria is even worse than that in Lebanon
as a result of the protests,” Ramani said.
In another part of Damascus, a 30-year-old working in a shop
selling computers and mobile phones imported from Lebanon said the
store had to increase all prices.
“In the end this is going to be reflected in the market and most
people won’t be able to pay according to the new prices,” the
young salesman said.
“We fear further collapse,” he added.
Syria’s eight-year civil war has battered the country’s
economy, and depleted its foreign currency reserves.
An array of international sanctions has targeted President Bashar
Assad’s regime and associated businessmen since the start of the
war in 2011.
Authorities estimate that since 2011, Syria’s key oil and gas
sector has suffered some $74 billion in losses.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has caused some $400
billion in war-related destruction.
It has also killed 370,000 people and displaced millions more.

Main category: 

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Source: FS – All-News-Economy
Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low