Almost 80% of Syrians live in poverty and 60% are food insecure, according to the United Nations.
Amid a sharp economic downturn, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued a decree granting hundreds of thousands of public sector workers and soldiers a one-time financial incentive, equivalent to an average monthly salary.
The stimulus – the third since October – comes as the national currency collapses, now at more than 4,000 Syrian pounds against the U.S. dollar on the black market, down from 700 a year ago. The official rate is set at 1,256 Syrian pounds to the dollar.
The move comes a day after the government raised the price of fuel, including subsidized fuel, by more than 50% in the third increase this year. He also raised the price of cooking gas.
Almost 80% of Syrians live in poverty and 60% are food insecure – the worst food security situation ever seen in Syria, according to the United Nations.
The decree stipulated that a one-time payment of 50,000 Syrian pounds, or nearly $ 11 on the black market, would go to public sector workers, including those on part-time contracts and conscripts. And 40,000 Syrian pounds, or about $ 8.80, would be distributed to retirees.
Inflation has reached between 180 and 300 percent, according to the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. The price of a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sugar has dropped from 700 Syrian pounds to around 2,400 this year.
The Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection said the price of non-subsidized fuel would drop from 1,300 Syrian pounds per liter to 2,000 pounds, an increase of more than 50%. The price of subsidized fuel would increase by nearly 60 percent, to 750 Syrian pounds per liter. The price of butane gas for cooking has increased by 37%.
Economist Ziad Ghosn said the one-time payment equals the average monthly salary and estimated the cost of the stimulus to be around Syrian pounds 120 billion. He also estimated that the stimulus would reach around two million people.
Syrians are grappling with deteriorating economic conditions and shortages of basic commodities and medicine, and have been forced to queue to buy subsidized bread and fuel.
A decade of conflict has caused enormous damage to the Syrian economy, isolated its government and displaced its people, driving most of them into poverty. Restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic have increased pressure on the economy, made worse by the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon, which has been a bridge to Syria economically and financially.
More than half a million people have been killed in the 10-year conflict in Syria, which has also left the country’s infrastructure in ruins and most of its oil and agricultural resources out of government control.