Syrian Kurdish officials take emergency steps to deal with economic crisis

Syrian Kurdish officials take emergency steps to deal with economic crisis
Residents shop in a market in the Syrian city of Qamishli, located along the northern border with Turkey, April 11, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)

Original article by Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan 24, January 25, 2020

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-led Self-Administration for the Northeast of Syria told Kurdistan 24 on Friday that it had taken several steps to deal with the worsening economic situation in Syria caused by the collapse of the Syrian pound, US sanctions, and a crisis in neighboring Lebanon.

Areas under the control of the Syrian government are suffering from severe fuel and gas shortages due intensified sanctions, but so far the local administration has been able to deal with the situation.

“The Autonomous Administration has taken a new decision to respond to the current economic situation. One of the previous decisions was that export of cattle to outside of north and east Syria was banned – and that was due to the increase in the prices, and by exporting the livestock, the people might not be able to provide food essentials like meat,” Administration Spokesperson Luqman Ahmi told Kurdistan 24.

“As you know, the Syrian pound has significantly lost its value recently,” he continued. “Therefore, the Autonomous Administration had taken other economic decisions as well, including provision of most critical goods like sugar, oil, rice, baby milk, and tea – and that would be sold to the people at the same prices which they have been bought.” 

Abdulsalam Hemsork, co-chair of the Social Affairs of Raqqa Civilian Council, told Kurdistan 24 that the Autonomous Administration has also increased salaries of local employees. 

“But, still it is not enough. The US dollar reaching to about 900 Syrian pounds has made it difficult for the people. The prices for necessities like bread, diesel, and gas have not been increased, but the market has been negatively impacted.”

This was one of the reasons, he said, the administration started to provide these crucial necessities for residents at original prices and to keep the cost of fuel and bread stable. Moreover, the administration will begin providing construction material, such as cement and iron, to prevent further price increases in the region. 

According to the Rojava Information Centre, for this reason, a distribution center was opened in the city of Kobani that provides reduced-priced essentials because “Kobane is particularly affected by the economic crisis, since the arterial M4 road connecting it to the rest of North and East Syria has been severed by the Turkish invasion.”

He said that the economy has also been affected by US sanctions against the Syrian government in Damascus, adding, “The Caesar Act has been enforced upon Syria. We are trying to minimize the damages of the sanctions on our people.”   

“The recent vote by the UNSC [UN Security Council] to stop crossing of humanitarian aid from Tel Kocer border crossing is yet another challenge facing north and east Syria that will surely have negative effects.”

In late December, Russia vetoed a resolution on Syria, blocking humanitarian aid from being transported through a border crossing that previously supplied 40 percent of the medical supplies used in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), leading to an increase in medicine prices.  

Read More: Syrian Kurds criticize UN decision limiting humanitarian aid to Syria 

Ahmi continued, “Unfortunately, humanitarian issues have also been used as tools in the interests of states.”

“As you know, Turkey and Syria have only left 3 border points to provide humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian people: two points bordering Turkey [in Idlib] where Turkish-backed forces are, and another point run by Damascus,” he explained.

“As a result, the people in Northeastern Syria have been left out from the humanitarian aid – that will make our people to find local solutions, self-manage, and work towards self-sufficiency in order to minimize the damages of the current economic crisis – similar to our areas’ experience of minimizing the military challenges of Syrian crisis in [the] Northeast of the country.”

Editing by John J. Catherine