Readers of this blog know that I like to feature opinions from inside Syria on the general situation in the country today. Below is an interview I conducted on 8 August 2020 with a person residing in the Damascus area. His origins go back to the originally Shi'i village of al-Fu'a in Idlib. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: How do you assess the general situation in Syria today in terms of the living situation, economy and health? Has the value of the Syrian pound stabilised after the rapid collapse recently?
A: The assessment firstly in terms of economy: the state is exhausted in fact in resolving cases of corruption that have implicated a great number of the leaders of wealth like Rami Makhlouf. And the pound has stabilised after a great intervention from Iran. The situation of the Syrian pound is in a state of stability and the price of the pound today in the black market has reached 2200 pounds after it reached 3000. The factories and industries are trying hard to make available goods for the market and the farmers are exporting fruits and eggs to Lebanon and Iraq, which has caused a great inflation in the prices of these goods.
Q: What are the reasons for the difficulties in life currently? For example some say that the sanctions are the cause and others say that government corruption is the cause. What is your opinion? And what is the opinion of the public according to your knowledge?
A: Today the main cause for the difficulty in life is the lack of availability of imported goods that bore the burden for the Syrian factories and industries. The rise of prices is because of the lack of goods like medicines and the exporting and smuggling of chicken, meats and eggs to the neighbouring states and that is because of the deterioration of the Syrian pound.
And the sanctions have come to make matters worse because the crude imported goods that concern the factories and industries of the medicines no longer arrive and also the fuels like gasoline, mazout and fuel operating the electric transformers. And also government corruption has had a great hand in the deterioration of the economic situation and especially in the campaigns of smuggling basic goods to Iraq and Lebanon. The public in general is very pressured but its fear of the Covid-19 epidemic prevents it from doing anything notable against the government, except for the few campaigns on social media and most of these campaigns are concerned with cursing so-and-so minister and casting blame on the government in a general sense. Frankly the government is very much falling short from all angles of health, economy and procedures.
Q: Do you fear the possibility of a popular explosion amid the deterioration in the living situation?
A: A popular explosion is something completely ruled out for the Syrians today are occupied with the epidemic and looking for a refuge to protect them against hunger and poverty. In general al-Sham [Damascus] has come to possess two classes: one below the poverty line and the other super wealthy. In general the people are living with the rarity of everything and I do not exaggerate when I say everything.
Q: What are the measures that the government must take to overcome the current crisis?
A: As for the measures, there are great conditional offers from China and Iran, and I do not want to mention Russia because what the Russians are doing today in Syria is good politically but socially it is colonialism writ large. So all those I have mentioned have put forward initiative and contracts. Today the stumbling government stands as an obstacle in the face of finalising them. And the matter in my opinion is dependent on what comes after the second month of 2021: i.e. after the presidential elections, and the people are relying on what comes after this date.