Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree on Sunday giving hundreds of thousands of civil servants and military members a 50 per cent salary increase amid a harsh economic and financial crisis and price increases for vital products.
The Syrian economy has been hit hard by a decade of war, Western sanctions, widespread corruption and most recently a severe economic and financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon. The last salary increase was announced in November 2019.
The decree released by Assad’s office put the minimum monthly income at 71,515 Syrian pounds ($ 22). It also granted military and civilian pension holders an increase of 40pc in the retirement pension.
The US dollar is trading at about 3,200 pounds on the black market while the official rate is 2,500 pounds.
Assad’s decision came a day after the state doubled the price of bread, the country’s main staple, and increased the price of diesel fuel by 180pc.
The price of subsidized bread increased to 200 Syrian pounds. The state-run Syrian Foundation for Bakeries said the rising price of diesel fuel contributed to the increase, according to the official SANA news agency.
“This was all expected and now we fear further increases in the price of food and medicine,” Damascus resident Wael Hammoud, 41, told AFP while he waited for more than thirty minutes to hail a cab to take him to work.
Mustafa Haswiya, of the state-run Syrian Company for the Storage and Distribution of Petroleum Products, said 80pc of Syria’s hydrocarbon needs are purchased from abroad using foreign currency.
“It was necessary to raise prices in order to reduce the import bill,” SANA quoted him as saying.
Diesel fuel in Syria is used to power vehicles and private generators that run for up to 20 hours per day in some areas to supplement an ailing power grid hampered by fuel shortages.
The pro-government Al-Watan daily on Sunday said the diesel fuel hike will lead to “an increase in the price of transportation within and across provinces” by more than 26pc. The agriculture and industrial sectors will also see production costs rise, it noted.
The cost of heating homes will also climb by 178pc, according to Al-Watan.
An economist in Damascus who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the government will continue to raise prices as the crisis deepens.
“As long as there is no money entering the treasury, the price increases will continue,” he said.
The latest price hikes came nearly two weeks after the government in neighboring crisis-hit Lebanon raised fuel prices by more than 35pc to combat shortages that authorities there blame in part on smuggling to Syria.
The provision of basic services and staple goods in Syria has been battered by the country’s civil war, which began in 2011 with government repression of protests.
In rebel-held northwestern Syria, neighboring Turkey – a key backer of anti-government forces there – has sought to plug the gap, building flour mills and supplying power.
Nearly 80pc of Syrians live in poverty, and 60pc are food insecure – the worst food security situation ever seen in Syria, according to the United Nations.