- On Thursday, August 17, hundreds of residents from in and around Suwayda, Syria protested against poor living and economic conditions in the country, in particular the rising price of fuel.
- Demonstrators blocked roads and burned tires, while chanting anti-regime rhetoric.
- A day prior, the Syrian government “raised prices of gasoline and other petroleum products again” amid gradual lifts on “subsidies to boost public finances.”
- The protests occurred in a portion of the country controlled by the Syrian government.
- Protests rarely occur in portions of the country under government control due to strong state repression.
- In the past year, Syria has lifted subsidies to help improve the government's deficit.
- For years the government had subsidized fuel, gasoline, and grain.
- Lifting these subsidies is a way for the cash-strapped government to reduce spending.
- Subsidies have been a key form of economic aid in government-controlled areas, but the government is hoping to replace the expensive system with a smart-card ration system.
- Officials have claimed that this new system would only affect the wealthiest Syrians, while easing supply shortages and improving corruption.
- However, lifting subsidies has decreased purchasing power for millions of Syrians, leading to protests.
- The Syrian government announced last week that it was doubling public sector salaries and pensions in an effort to combat the rising cost of living.
- These moves reportedly cannot keep pace with hyperinflation and the record depreciation of the Syrian pound.
Background on the Syrian Economy:
- The Syrian economy has suffered since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011 following protests against President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.