Syria in 2010, the year before the war

This text was published in the French publication Le Monde. Bilan du Monde. La situation économique internationale in early 2011.

Thanks to important reforms decided by the President Bachar Al-Assad, the Syrian economy, plagued by stagnation for a long time, has regained some vigour back. The gross domestic product of the country has doubled between 2005 and 2010, going from 21.1 billion euro from 43.9 billion euro. The privatisation of the banking sector of 2004 has boosted private enterprises, and in 2009 a stock exchange was opened in Damascus. The Syrian market has opened itself up to the rest of the world in 2005 with multiple free-trade treaties. Finally, an association agreement with the European Union, blocked after the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri in 2005, has been ready to be signed since November 2009.

The global economic crisis has had a moderate impact on Syria. The growth rate has gone from 5.4% to 4% between 2008 and 2009, should go back to 5% according to the International Monetary Fund. The Syrian economy has suffered mostly on the ground of a fall in oil product exports (-61% between 2008 and 2009). The loss of revenue has been only partially compensated by an increase in income from the tourism sector (3.5 billion euro for the first seven month of 2010) and remittances from Syrians abroad (1 billion euro forecast in 2010), while waiting for the exploitation of new oil reserves and other hydrocarbons. Incidentally, the growth of foreign investment has allowed to maintain an equilibrium in the balance of payments.

With an average income of 170 dollars (126 euro) per month, the standard of living remains lower than that of the majority of Middle-Eastern countries.

Copyright © Le Monde 2011

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As the French diplomat and political scientist Tocqueville noted in his work on the French revolution, revolutions do not happen when a regime is working at his most oppressive, rather when a government appears to be liberalising – only then a window of opportunity for radical change is possible.

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