Ali Makhlouf is an independent journalist based inside Syria. On 26 May 2020, I conducted an interview with him about the general situation inside Syria.
Q: How do you assess in general the current situation today in terms of the military, economic and livelihood angles?
A: From the military angle there is cautious calm imposed previously by an international regional agreement, then the corona epidemic came and was imposed with its weight on all the portfolios in the world and not only in Syria, in terms of politics and economy. As for the economic and livelihood angles, in addition to the war and its impacts and the sanctions and what they result in, there are some hoarders and opportunists who are exploiting the crises to increase their profits. There is a crazy rise in prices, and there is weakness in purchasing power for the citizen in a great sense.
Q: In your opinion what are the reasons for the difficulties in livelihood currently? Are they the result of the Western sanctions on Syria or a result of the policies of the government? What do most of the people think about this matter?
A: Two people of understanding do not disagree that the Western sanctions are the main cause, for the corruption was present, but the purchasing power of the Syrian citizen was very good in 2010. This does not mean that some of those who fall short in addition to the greedy are not taking advantage of the war and sanctions for their ambitions in rapid profit enrichment. Most of the citizens have refrained from analysing just as they were before the years of the war, and have begun speaking about their livelihood concerns. The matter is not devoid of holding the government responsible for some of the shortcoming in some aspects and parts, but it is not fair for us to blame the government alone, just as it is not possible for the war and sanctions alone to be the reason for the living state we have reached as well.
Q: Of course there has been much talk about the issue of Rami Makhlouf. What are the reasons for the procedures against him in your opinion and are these procedures justified in your opinion?
A: There is a law in the end. It has been propagated that the man is very effective and that has been implanted in the minds of many, but the state wanted to say that no one is above it. As for the reasons they are as announced, connected with sums of entitlement, but some of the parties have taken the cause to somewhere besides its place and many of those who want to kindle the internal Syrian situation have fished in muddy waters. And note that the man is not alone but rather a main distribution centre for the products of a fizzy drinks company owned by the biggest and most famous of businessmen in Syria. And before it the Takamol company was withdrawn from its contractor and it was given to a government institution. And there is information that the list has not ended.
Q: If the rise in prices continues, do you expect there will be a popular explosion?
A: I do not expect the stage will reach the explosion, for despite the great anger at what the livelihood situation has come to on which two do not disagree, many of the Syrians see the problem as complicated, as it is partly tied to the war and sanctions, partly tied to the corruption, and partly tied to the shortcoming or some erroneous decisions, in addition to the greed of merchants and currency manipulators. And we will not forget also that the intensification of the Caesar law against Syria and its people will begin to be applied next month and this will also greatly impact the livelihood and prices and availability of goods.
Q: What are the measures that the government must adopt with regards to the economic crisis?
A: The state indeed as I see has begun to take the first steps like pursuing the top guys of great wealth from which the wealth of the state derives. But also there must be a campaign to combat the corruption and cronyism, and implement the laws in a greater sense without circumvention of them, and many of the state institutions should be reorganised. In addition, the prices and markets must be regulated, and the merchants and the senior distributors and importers must be monitored, and from country of origin as well, in order to prevent manipulation of prices and achieving of great profit margin.