Business Environment in Syria
Thanks to a wave of economic liberalization, undertaken since the beginning of Bashar El Assad’s presidency, the economic situation of the country has massively improved, the GDP more than doubling in five years and showing a growth rate of around 4% in the recent years. The country is moving progressively from a strongly state-controlled economy to a free-market economy where privatization plays an important part. The WTO has begun accession negotiation with Damascus in May 2010 and the country presently has the status of an observer. The country launched a reform of its banking system and a beginning of the process of fiscal consolidation. The Damascus stock exchange was opened in March 2009.
But the draught the country has been exposed to since 2008 has a tendency to darken the picture and disturb the fragile economic equilibrium. Agricultural crisis has lead to a relatively significant rural exodus (20 to 30% of migrations between 2007-2008) and especially to a 27% increase in the price of cereals and bread since January 2008, thus forcing the country to import wheat for the very first time. Since 2003, an immigration wave of Iraqi refugees has also had a large impact on the Syrian economy. Syria is weakened by a very high rate of demographic growth (+3.3% annually), which means the country needs to grow by almost 7% a year in order to reach full employment. Young people are particularly hit by unemployment (75% of the unemployed are between 15 and 24 years of age).
The financial crisis had a relatively low impact on Syria, partially due to its policy of insufficiency, which means that the banking system is not very well integrated into the international banking system and also to the US sanctions. In spite of its liberalization of the key banking and insurance sectors, public companies and central government continue to concentrate more than 50% of the total amount of loans granted by the banking system in 2010. The country has trouble limiting the impact of the crisis on inflation (15% increase in 2008) and as a consequence limiting the impoverishment of a part of its population (1/3 of the population lives below the poverty line).
|GDP (billions USD)||53.91e||59.33e||68.34||73.90e||79.96e|
|GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)||6.0||3.2e||3.0||5.1e||5.5e|
|GDP per Capita (USD)||2,678||2,877e||3,235||3,415||3,606|
|Inflation Rate (%)||2.8||4.4||6.0||5.0e||5.0e|
|Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force)||8.1||8.4||-||-||-|
|Current Account (billions USD)||-2.37||-2.39||-2.33||-2.54||-|
|Current Account (in % of GDP)||-4.5||-4.0e||-3.5e||-3.5e||-|
Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database
Note: (e) Estimated Data
Main Sectors of Industry
Syria, still in full economic boom, exports mostly raw materials (crude oil, cotton, cereals and phosphates). Agriculture constitutes a pillar of its economy, given its large population and its struggle to reach self-sufficiency. The agricultural sector contributes nearly 22% to GDP and employs one-third of the active population; however, it remains a fragile sector, since it directly depends on climatic conditions and especially on water scarcity, key regional factor. Cropland has increased by more than 50% since 1970, largely because of government incentives and more efficient use of irrigation methods. The principal crops include wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, and barley. Large numbers of poultry, cattle, and sheep are also raised.
Industry has a relatively important place thanks to the textile, chemical and of course oil industry, the latter representing 14% of the Syrian GDP. The hydrocarbon sector is very important for the Syrian economy and contributes up to 65% to the country’s exports. Nevertheless, the country’s oil reserves are diminishing from year to year and although the increase of barrel price enabled a growth of 4.5% between 2006 and 2007, experts expect the Syrian oil wells to dry up by 2020. The manufacturing sector contributes 25% to GDP, with the production of handicrafts such as silk, leather and glass products.
The tertiary sector is well established (mainly tourism) and contributes more than 50% to GDP.
|Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector||Agriculture||Industry||Services|
|Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment)||27.0||25.6||47.3|
|Value Added (in % of GDP)||21.0||33.7||45.3|
|Value Added (Annual % Change)||6.0||-2.3||4.5|
Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.
|Syrian Pound (SYP) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD||11.23||11.23||11.23||11.23||11.23|
Source: World Bank
Indicator of Economic Freedom
- Mostly unfree
- World Rank:
- Regional Rank:
Foreign Trade in Figures
Since the late 1990s, Syria has been very open to international trade. In 2005, is signed a free-trade agreement with Turkey (in operation since 2007) and joined the GAFTA (Great Arab Free Trade Area), a regional free-trade zone, while an association agreement with the European Union was drafter in 2005, then in 2008 and has been ready to be signed since the fall of 2009.
Foreign trade represents about 70% of the country’s GDP. Last numbers published by Syria’s central statistical bureau for foreign trade date from 2008 and give the figure of 14.227 billion EUR of imports against 11.997 billion EUR of exports, i.e. a trade deficit of 2.231 billion EUR.
Exports rose by 12% per year on average between 2004 and 2010, while imports rose by 14% per year. It therefore seems that the global economic crisis did somewhat affect foreign trade, however its bases appear healthy enough to continue the policy of opening up economically.
Syria main exports are its oil resources (42% of exports in 2008), textile (16%), livestock and vegetables (12%), as well as food products (11%). Its main clients are the Arab countries, up to 51% with a particular intensification of trade relations with Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, followed by the European Union with up to 34%, with Germany and Italy in the lead and France only taking the 6th place. In terms of imports, the most important position belongs to oil products, with up to 35%, and also to metals and fabricated metal products, followed by chemical industry, livestock and consumer goods. The two main suppliers are the European Union (29%) and Asia (25%), respectively.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||11,488||14,655||18,105||15,291||16,950|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||10,919||11,546||15,410||10,855||14,000|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||2,437||2,917||3,127||2,754||-|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||2,649||3,562||3,770||4,579||-|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||0.2||8.4||2.5||6.4||-|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||40.8||2.5||-2.4||5.6||-|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||36.4||37.7||32.0||35.7||-|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||40.1||38.5||31.7||33.9||-|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||886||-521||773||-||-|
|Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD)||1,290||328||-||-||-|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||76.4||76.2||63.7||69.6||-|
Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank
Main Partner Countries
(% of Exports)
|Other partnersClose extended list||43.4%|
(% of Imports)
|Other partnersClose extended list||63.8%|
Sources of General Economic Information
Ministry of the Economy
Ministry of Finance
- Statistical Office
Central Bureau of Statistics
- Central Bank
Central Bank of Syria
- Stock Exchange
Website dedicated to the Syrian financial market, studies and reports on Syrian and Arab investors (in Arabic).
- Search Engines
- Economic Portals
Library of Congress
- Executive Power
- The President is the head of state and is elected by a popular referendum for a seven-year term. The President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and holds executive power. He can declare war, issue laws, amend the constitution, and appoint civil and military personnel. The President appoints the Prime Minister (as head of the government) and his cabinet, to serve for an unspecified period of time (as long as he wishes).
- Legislative Power
- The legislative power is unicameral in Syria. The parliament is called the People's Council (Majlis al-Shaab). It has 250 seats and its members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Syria has been under a state of emergency since 1963, which gives the President special powers.
- Main Political Parties
The main political parties are:
- Arab Socialist (Resurrection) Party (Baath);
- Syrian Socialist Party (ASP);
- Arab Socialist Union (ASU);
- Syrian Communist Party (SCP);
- Socialist Democratic Union (DSUP).
- Current Political Leaders
President: Bashar al-ASAD (since July 2000, re-elected in May 2007) - Baath Party
Vice President : Farouk al-Shara since February 11, 2006.
Prime Minister: Adil SAFR (since 14 April 2011)
- Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2014 (by referendum)
People's Council: 2011
Indicator of Freedom of the Press
- World Rank:
- 6 places down compared to 2008
Indicator of Political Freedom
- Not Free
- Political Freedom:
- Civil Liberties:
Any Comments About This Content? Report It to Us.
No content has been posted to this folder yet.
Be the first to feature your expertise related to Business Environment in Syria!
- Post any content you may have that features your expertise, such as a text article with business tips, presentation, market report, etc
- By sharing your knowledge you gain more visibility for your profile not only on GlobalTrade.net but across the web
Post your content now by simply clicking on the button below.
Check these folders already populated with content posted by other users:
Click here to find out more about key benefits and instructions for contributing to the site.
Post any content you may have that features your expertise and offers valuable information to the international trade community.
The more informative content you post the more visible your will be, as your valuable content will link directly to your profile.
Check these sample pages for illustration: