“Economy of Scarcity,” how does Syrian regime deal with resources, commodities shortage?

Syrian citizens line up to get subsidized government bread from al-Adawi bakery in Damascus (AFP)

Syrian citizens line up to get subsidized government bread from al-Adawi bakery in Damascus (AFP)


Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi

A severe shortage of food commodities, the lack of basic services in the service sector, rationing of energy resources, hardships, and economic pressures were experienced by residents in the regime-controlled areas for more than a decade.

After the outbreak of pro-democracy demonstrations calling for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 and the choice of a security solution, the state’s resources were completely directed towards the so-called “war effort,” putting down the popular uprising militarily.

This was accompanied by the departure of large areas of Syria that possess natural resources from the regime control, which was mainly reflected in the lack of basic staples and resources.

During the past years, the regime resorted to trying to balance basic needs and their shortage, especially with the historic collapse of the value of the Syrian pound against foreign currencies and the country’s entry into a severe economic and living crisis. Along with large waves of Syrian migration towards other countries, whether to European or neighboring countries, in search of opportunities for economic and living stability.

How did the regime deal with the lack of resources?

Over the past years, the Syrian economy has turned into a war economy, meaning that the state directs all its energies and resources towards supporting the war effort, in conjunction with gradually lifting subsidies and increasing taxes and fees on goods and services.

Economics researcher Dr. Firas Shaabo told Enab Baladi that the Syrian regime, with the continuation of the battles in various Syrian regions, began to withdraw subsidies on energy, fuel, medicine, and fertilizers, as well as on foodstuffs.

It also stopped securing the basic needs of the production process, which led to a sharp decline in production, and demand became greater than supply, in conjunction with the deterioration of the currency, the disruption of manufacturing, the emergence of additional security problems, and domestic corruption.

Economic analyst Younis al-Karim told Enab Baladi that there are two frameworks for the economy that the regime has followed in Syria for many years.

The first framework relates to the adaptation of Syrian society to the goods and services provided to it since the eighties of the 20th century.

Consequently, the Syrians were forced to deal with the scarcity of these commodities by reducing their need for them, waiting for their price to drop, or for the availability of cheaper alternatives.

The second framework, which was part of a global economy, is based on the regime’s exploitation of the value that is given to the commodity within the term “scarcity.” So the regime sold oil, antiquities, minerals, and even information about specific people and established an entire economic state system that works in its interest, and this framework stopped with the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.

Currently, according to al-Karim, the simple economy based on adaptation between “scarcity” and need remained, and the Syrians were able to adapt in the absence of any other solutions except the Syrian regime’s attempt to create a parallel economy of goods and services through circles close to it.

The expert Shaabo indicated that the Syrian regime dealt with the economy on the basis of the necessity of the continuation of the state entity, not its economic institutions.

The regime is not interested in improving economic conditions or establishing real projects to improve the income of citizens, as much as it follows steps to ensure its continuity, which will be reflected in the development of Syria in the future.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business report issued in 2020, Syria ranked 176th out of 190 countries, 143rd in starting commercial activities, and 186th in issuing building permits.

What is Economic Scarcity?

There is no term in economics called scarcity economy, but science studies how resources are aligned with needs and the gap between them; hence the term arose, given that human needs are greater than his resources because they are frequent and renewable unlike limited resources.

Hence the “scarcity,” due to the misuse or depletion of some resources, according to Dr. Shaabo.

Scarcity is one of the key concepts of economics. It means that the demand for a good or service is greater than the availability of the good or service. Therefore, scarcity can limit the choices available to the consumers who ultimately make up the economy.

Economic analyst Younis al-Karim told Enab Baladi that the greater the scarcity of the commodity and the greater the need for it, the higher its price, and in this case, scarcity is considered a “relative matter.”

Al-Karim pointed out that under normal circumstances, the term “scarcity” has become weak as a result of open markets, which has transformed “scarcity” into a backbone of profits in countries where resources are greater than needs, such as the Gulf states, for example.

Future negative effects

Dr. Dan Stoenescu, Head of the EU Delegation to Syria, tweeted on June 21, “Nine out of every ten young Syrians want to leave the country, five already have concrete plans, and four are learning German! These are mostly educated, bright people who, unfortunately, will not stay and help their homeland. In Damascus, tackling the root causes of the Syrian crisis, a constructive attitude rather than defiance is now more necessary than ever!”

Such a tweet reflects the clear desire of a large segment of Syrians to leave Syria for other countries as a result of the current economic conditions, which push the Syrians to search for better options and find solutions to a major economic crisis.

The current crisis is represented by a significant increase in the prices of foodstuffs, fruits, and vegetables, with the devaluation of the currency against the US dollar, the regime’s withdrawal of subsidies on goods and energy for large segments of Syrians, and the rationing of government subsidies for other segments within a mechanism it introduced in 2018, known as the “Smart Card.”

​​($1=9500 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.

The allocations for gasoline were the first items attached to the card, then diesel fuel, gas, and many foodstuffs, with a determination of the monthly allocations of the Syrian family, under the title “Rationalizing the consumption of subsidies.”

Dr. Shaabo told Enab Baladi that the main engine of any economy is human resources. The recent economic crises and the draining of state resources towards the war effort have drained Syria of workers and drained brains and youth, which means that the country has become helpless.

The economist made it clear that if international money came to support the economy, there would be no positive result due to the increased migration.

On the other hand, the economic moves adopted by the Syrian regime, including defrauding and destroying the basic or regular economy while creating parallel markets (black markets), the rule of plunder, extortion, and exploitation, and working to control the joints of the economy, greatly weakened it.

Syrians topped the list of nationalities with the largest number of asylum applications submitted in European Union countries. It amounted to 132,000 applications submitted by Syrians for the year 2022, according to the European Union’s Asylum Agency (EUAA).

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said the number of Syrian refugees living around the world has exceeded 5.5 million, while the number of internally displaced persons has reached about 6.8 million.

Economic analyst Younis al-Karim indicated in his interview with Enab Baladi that any negative or positive impact, in general, depends on the economic shape of the state.

He continued that in the free economic system, “scarcity” is the backbone of profits and gives value to production and future plans, and without it, the production process and economic planning have no meaning.



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