Perspectives on Global Development
Professor Duncan Earle
Syria is a country that is located in the Middle East aka Western Asia. Considered “lower middle income”, it lies in the middle of five neighboring countries with Turkey to the North, Jordan in the South, Iraq to the East, and Lebanon and Israel to the West/Southwest. Syria’s history is rich and full as the location dates back to 10,000BC when that area was known as the Fertile Crescent and remains have been found dating as far back to the Palaeolithic Era. Much has changed since the early days of the Tigris and Euphrates, since it was established as a state after World War I. Following a series of military coups, and a fluctuation of political power, Syria currently finds itself in the heart of a Civil War.
The Capitol of Syria is Damascus, which is located in the southwest of the country. The population is approximately 22 million but most likely less now due to the casualties of war and refugees that have fled the country. This has grown drastically since the 1960’s when the population was an estimated 4.5 million. The Majority of the population today (apporox.75%) are Sunni, with the Shia and Alawites making up about 11-12% respectively. The following minorities, which are the Kurds, Armenians, Turks and Assyrians, and Christians, make up the remaining 2%. Arabic is the official language, with some Arabic dialects being spoken in the northeast.
Since the late 2000’s Syria has seen an economic downfall. Economic Sanctions have taken a huge hit on Syria’s economy due to trade restrictions with many countries including the Arab League, USA, the European Union and Australia. The nominal GDP is 64.7 billion from a 2011 estimate. Oil accounts for the majority of the country’s export income but since the start of the war and a depletion of oil reserves the numbers have decreased drastically. It was estimated to be about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 1995, to about 140,000 bpd in 2012. Agriculture also plays a role in the economy and employment but this number has also dwindled due to poor climate and drought. Their major export partners are Iraq, Lebanon, Germany, and Saudi Arabia and their major imports come from China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The official currency is the Syrian Pound with an exchange rate of about seventy Syrian Pounds to one U.S. Dollar.
As with most everything else going on in this country since the start of the Civil War, the Labor force has also seen a decrease in numbers. It was never very good to begin with; in 2010 there were only about 5.5 million people on the Syrian Labor Force and about 70% of them earned less than $100.00 US dollars per month. It far less now and the unemployment rate has been estimated to be as high as 20%. With bombs going off nearly every day in the major cities it’s hard to imagine people even showing up to work in such drastic times. Another shocking estimate is that approximately 3.5 million have virtually no income and over 30% of the population lives in poverty (11% below the level of subsistence).
The Health factors in Syria, while they are by no means considered good, have actually improved greatly over the years. Most of the endemic diseases in Syria have been neutralized and a greater abundance of Health Facilities and hospitals have been implemented by the Ba’ath party. The child mortality rate is about 15.12 deaths/1,000 live births, measles and problems with the respiratory system being the main cause. There are Tuberculosis and Trachoma outbreaks, but these generally fall among the residents of the poor urban areas.
“Health conditions and sanitation in the cities, towns, and larger villages are generally satisfactory. Running water is supplied to almost all houses, buildings, and public places. Each municipality maintains its streets and collects refuse regularly. Although the government has offered incentives for doctors to