While Syria’s civil war has brought the country’s economy to its knees, a growing number of groups, individuals and militias are reaping million of dollars in profit from illegal activities such as kidnapping and smuggling, a leading expert has told Syria Deeply.
A new business elite engaged primarily in traditional legal industry and trade is also emerging because many of the old guard have either died or left the country, Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syria Report, said in an interview.
The Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, has taken a dramatic toll on the country’s economy. According to U.N. figures, the total economic loss from Syria’s conflict will reach $237bn by the end of this year. Exports and imports have both declined significantly and the country’s GDP has plummeted.
Nevertheless, new and often illegal businesses have sprung up, as almost always happens in civil wars. Rebels and other groups are charging people to pass checkpoints and borders. Smugglers are meeting demand for all sorts of goods, both legal and illegal. Looting and kidnapping have also become rife.
Behind the backdrop of the fragmentation of the Syrian infrastructure, as opposition and extremist groups and the government compete for resources and territory, new groups and individuals are taking control of the economy at the expense of the traditional business class, Yazigi said.
The conditions created by the civil war have forced ordinary civilians to unwittingly or unwillingly take part in a war economy, buying or selling smuggled goods at prices dictated by those who control checkpoints, he added. The scale of the economic destruction in Syria is reminiscent of some nations after second world war. He added: “It could take 40 to 50 years to recover.”
Yazigi spoke with Syria Deeply about Syria’s new economy.