Syrians face 'toughest Ramadan yet' as regime withdraws market protections

Syrians face 'toughest Ramadan yet' as regime withdraws market protections
This Ramadan could be the toughest yet for long-suffering Syrian people as the pound continues to plummet and prices rise.
3 min read
Turkey - Istanbul
23 March, 2023
Ramadan in Syria will be hard for many as prices continue to escalate and families are increasingly unable to buy basic goods [Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty]

Rising prices of basic goods are forcing most Syrian families to forgo foods they would regularly buy in bulk to see them through the fasting month of Ramadan.

The Syrian regime has stopped any intervention in commodity pricing, leaving this to be set by retailers according to cost, as the exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the dollar continues to plummet

Syrian economist Abdulnaser Aljasem said that Ramadan this year is the toughest yet for Syrians, with the markets "bucking all the usual economic equations".

He told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition: "Despite declining demand and excess supply… prices have not dropped, in fact, we are seeing them rise daily."

He said that this had happened even after economic sanctions on the regime were frozen after the deadly earthquake which hit Turkey and Syria in February.

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"High prices, an absence of monitoring, and market stagnation are the three factors governing Syrian markets," he added.

The regime's institutions had for the last two months withdrawn any intervention in the markets to ensure goods were priced competitively, he said.

The downward spiral of the Syrian pound which last Monday dropped to around 7550 pounds per dollar, while the average living costs for a family of five, based on the 'Kassioun Cost of Living Index' was over 4 million Syrian pounds ($530). The minimum wage is only 92,970 pounds.

Aljasem expects prices to rise further during Ramadan despite the Chairman of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce, Mohammed Abu Al-Huda Al-Lahham, claiming that prices should only rise during the build-up to Ramadan and the first week of the month, before falling as demand drops.

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Abdulaziz Al-Maqaali, the Head of the Consumer Protection Association, predicted however that prices would rise by 15 percent during Ramadan, telling the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper that they had already increased by 45 percent since the start of 2023. 

Syrian families couldn't even buy items such as potatoes in bulk, after the withdrawal of the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection from its role in protecting prices, he said, and called on the ministry to intervene and offer Ramadan food baskets to meet the needs of consumers "especially in light of the chaos in markets and prices".

Luay Shubat, a retiree from the Dummar neighbourhood in Damascus, said: "The situation for Syrians is very bad. Not many families have been able to prepare themselves, as they would have in the past, by buying the necessities for the blessed month.

"For example, a kilo of dates - one of the most important foods for Ramadan, is between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds for the high-quality type, which needs a month's salary! Similarly, dairy products have become a luxury."

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Families can no longer rely on store cupboard staples as a means of lowering household expenditure amid rocketing prices, meagre incomes, and the ever-increasing costs that most Syrians didn't used to have – like rent for houses for those who have lost their homes.

Electricity cuts that last for most of the day also lead to food stored in fridges going bad.

Economists say the purchasing power of Syrians is hardly enough to cover their daily consumption needs, while supplying one commodity, like cheese, makdous (Syrian pickled aubergine which is a popular breakfast item), or jam, would now cost a family more than their monthly income.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.