In recent times the Syrian pound has undergone a rapid decrease in value relative to the U.S. dollar. This drop in the currency's value is at least partly tied to the ongoing unrest in neighbouring Lebanon. Understandably, observers have been focused on how the fall in the value of the Syrian pound will affect Syrian government-held areas that now comprise the majority of Syria's territory. But it is also important to remember that the currency's depreciation affects areas outside of government control, such as the rebel-held areas of Idlib and its environs.
To learn more about the impact of the fall of the Syrian pound on Idlib and its environs, I interviewed an NGO worker who alternates his time between his native Barisha in north Idlib countryside and Azaz in north Aleppo countryside.
This interview was conducted on 1 December 2019 CE.
Q: What is the price of the dollar in Idlib currently and does it differ from one area to another?
A: Around a month ago, the price of the dollar was around 550-600 Syrian pounds per dollar. Now today the dollar has reached 900 Syrian pounds per dollar. So more or less the prices have doubled very much. Regarding the price, it differs in a very very little and non-notable sense in the liberated areas.
Q: How is the rise in the price of the dollar impacting life? From what angles exactly? For example the local councils increase the price of electricity? And also the prices of the goods in the shops? Are all of the people complaining about this matter? Are there any suggestions like using the Turkish lira instead of the Syrian pound in Idlib?
A: Yes, all of the people are complaining about this matter because it impacts everything. For example the ovens currently because the flour is imported from outside and they operate according to the price of the dollar. Regarding the mazout* as well, very expensive. Around two weeks ago, the price per litre of mazout was 250 Syrian pounds, now the price in Idlib per litre has reached 700 Syrian pounds: three-fold increase in the price of mazout. Regarding the ovens, the price of a bundle of bread was 200 Syrian pounds for example, now it has become 300 Syrian pounds. A very big impact. Regarding the supermarket shops, all the prices- the vegetables- and the house rent prices, all of them have been very heavily impacted. Regarding the electricity, for example with us in Barisha they were operating for four hours, now they have been operating for an hour and a half or an hour. Right? Very heavily impacted. Even in the water: here every village has a water spring or a well they dig from which they extract groundwater: it also needs generators and mazout, so there has been a reduction in distribution of water. As you may know, they bring the water and they distribute via tankers.
Q: Is there a fear of an economic collapse in Idlib?
A: Now there are very big fears that if the situations remains like this for a month or two there will be a collapse and starvation in the region and poverty, and God knows what will happen, because here the average income for the worker here in Syria in the liberated areas is less than $100: less, less than $100. There is helplessness and there is much unemployment, and everything is expensive. I think most of the society here are demanding and are wanting to replace the Syrian currency with the Turkish currency. The best thing, the best solution, is to replace the currency.
*Mazout: a type of heavy fuel.