On Tuesday 23 June, Chatham House will publish Syria's Economy: Picking up the Pieces, a comprehensive account of the state of the Syrian economy and its prospects. The paper, by David Butter, associate fellow on the Middle East and North Africa Programme, finds that:
- Syria's economy has contracted by more than 50 per cent in real terms since 2011, with the biggest losses in output coming in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Agriculture has assumed a bigger role in national output in relative terms, but food production has fallen sharply as a result of the conflict.
- Inflation has averaged 51 per cent between January 2012 and March 2015, according to the monthly data issued by the government, and the Syrian pound has depreciated by about 80 per cent since the start of the conflict.
- In the first half of 2015, the regime has shown increasing signs of strain on both the military and the economic fronts. The regime has lost ground to rebel forces, and the Syrian pound has depreciated at the fastest rate since the conflict began.
- Continued support from Iran, in the form of oil supplies and import credits, will come with political and economic conditions.
- The question arises as to whether a dramatic worsening in the economic situation might be the catalyst for the regime’s military collapse or for an externally imposed political settlement against Assad’s wishes; or whether further military setbacks might be the trigger for the government’s economic collapse.
This paper is the first research output of the Middle East and North Africa Programme’s flagship project, Syria and its Neighbours, a multiyear research initiative examining the long-term impact of the conflict on neighbouring countries.