The Syrian Crisis: Economic and Social Impact

The conflict in Syria and its repercussions have now reached such a serious situation that immediate global initiatives are needed by way of humanitarian interventions and economic aid. In its fourth year now, the crisis has severely impacted over 60 percent of the country’s population in making them either to get displaced from their homes or to flee the country. The crisis in the country has had drastic consequences in rolling back the region in terms of human development and economic loss by many decades. Over 120,000 people have already died and over seven million have been displaced.

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The conflict has led to large scale unemployment, making over half of the population to live in a state of extreme pecuniary. Millions of people from Syria have sought refuge in neighboring nations and thus made such nations extremely susceptible to enhanced economic and social burden, which they are not in a position to cope with. Presently, there are about 17 million people living in extreme poverty in Syria, while neighboring countries such as North Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt have had to accommodate over 3 million refugees, thus creating a human and economic crisis situation that these countries are unable to cope with.1 It is surprising to note that in Lebanon and Jordan, the refugees from Syria now make up about 27 and 10 percent respectively of the total population.

With the death of over 120,000 people, grievous injury to more than 600,000 and displacement of a major percentage of the population, Syria is now in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Neighboring countries, where people from Syria have taken refuge, are facing extreme human problems associated with housing, sanitation, food, education and socio economic facilities. The situation in these countries is such that they are now on the brink of virtual economic collapse in view of the massive pressure imposed on the job market, thus creating lack of economic opportunities. Such a situation has enhanced tensions amongst people and threatens to jeopardize social cohesion and effectiveness of the legal framework.2

The conflict in Syria continues to rage without any sign of cooling down, which has led many international agencies and governments to make efforts in finding appropriate solutions, but the highly aggressive and uncompromising environment in the country has not allowed any reduction in the ever increasing intensity with which the rebels and the government continue to wage war with each other, even as the public at large continues to suffer on account of the extremely pitiable humanitarian situation that so far appears to remain unresolved. The conflict began in 2011 when peaceful protests directed at strengthening civil rights and affecting positive economic, social and political changes were ruthlessly suppressed by the government.

For several years in the past, people at large were not satisfied with the marginalization policies of the government and the increasing deficiency in economic resources, which finally culminated in the organization of such peaceful protests. It is very unfortunate that despite diplomatic efforts, the hostility in Syria has not ended, primarily because of the involvement of regional and global entities that have been actively funding and encouraging the violence.3

Violence on the part of the armed forces has led to human calamities that have forced large numbers of Syrians to flee to neighboring countries, thus creating a refugee problem that is becoming increasingly difficult to handle by these neighboring countries in view of their poor internal economic situation. The problem of Syrian refugees is increasing to such an extent that they will soon become the largest refugee population in the world. The disastrous humanitarian consequences emanating from the crisis are only a small part of the overall impact because the larger impact is by way of deterioration of the country’s political, cultural and social conditions. There is a major loss in terms of the setback to efforts on economic and human development because it will now take decades for the country to recoup its already lost economic status. If such patterns are not checked, they will inevitably have a catastrophic impact on Syria’s all-round growth and development.4

The long drawn conflict has led to the total collapse of health and educational systems in the country, while there is a constant increase in the numbers of people being forced to live in poverty. In addition, there is an unceasing pattern of increasing instances of divisions and disintegration in societies and communities. The failure of the state is apparent from the increasing loss of liberty as well as regional, economic and social disintegration within the country. By the end of 2013, the crisis in Syria had led to economic collapse, while the percentage of unemployed population increased to over 50 percent.

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The human development index in the country went down by 24 percent in the beginning of 2014, which is indicative of the striking failure of human security and human development. Education has suffered a great deal because more than 50 percent of students have already dropped out of school. Violence and attacks in the country have destroyed over 3000 schools, while most of the other schools are being used as shelters for refugees and human development efforts. The problem is further exacerbated because of the non-availability of required numbers of teachers. The healthcare system in Syria has deteriorated and health risks to women have increased significantly, particularly in the context of deliveries, operations, post delivery care and availability of medicines. Children are not vaccinated according to the medical requirements and often become prone to contracting diseases such as diarrhea and other infections.

The most terrible part of the crisis is the loss of human lives, which increased by 67 percent by the end of 2013. About 120,000 people have died since the conflict began in early 2011, while almost 400,000 people have been grievously injured. It is unfortunate that almost 2 percent of the entire population in the country has either been killed or grievously injured. It is clear that an environment, in which there is no value for human rights and dignity, prevails in.

The main strengths of Syria’s economy are its communication, construction, manufacturing, mining, financial and real estate sectors, which are in a virtual state of destruction because of events that have led to massive reduction in productivity. Barring a few areas, it is becoming extremely difficult to lawfully carry out business activities in the private sector. Most businesses are struggling to exist in a highly risk prone business environment because of limited opportunities. Markets in the country are no longer under regulatory controls and small businesses are just managing to survive. Larger numbers of businesses are now functioning in environments characterized by felony, smuggling, oppression and violence and such circumstances are responsible for compromising on legitimacy of business activities and jeopardizing the security of business people.

The massive loss in Syrian economy is apparent from the fact that by the end of 2013, insolvency and pillaging led to total losses of over $103 billion, which equals almost double the amount of the country’s GDP. Capital losses of about $50 billion represented almost half of such losses. This massive loss can be compensated only with fresh investments amounting to billions of dollars. It is pitiable that by the end of 2013, the country’s Gross Domestic Product had declined by almost 40 percent in comparison to 2012.5

Although Syria’s GDP continues to decline, the economic structure has changed considerably, because now there is greater reliance on the agricultural sector, which now accounts for about 55 percent of the GDP. Investments in the private sector have declined drastically, while public investments have also been reduced by 30 percent in 2013. In addition, the government made efforts by transferring expenditures on investments to funding for consumption and defense.

The country’s budget deficit is on the constant increase and reached 75 percent of GDP because of enhanced external borrowings. In view of reduced personal earnings, private consumption in the country has been constantly declining in demonstrating the dismal financial and economic situation faced by Syrian families. It goes without saying that under such circumstances, the government ought to enhance public expenditures in order to neutralize the massive decline in demand for goods and services emanating from reduced incomes. But government revenues and tax collections are declining, while the increasing costs of providing subsidies and spending huge amounts on defense has led to reduced financial provisions for public consumption. With the degeneration of the economy, there has been a spurt in crime, violence and illegal activities and this situation has adversely impacted developmental activities, reforms and financial regulations, thus hampering overall economic growth.6

Some analysts have made a detailed analysis of the situation in Syria and concluded that the seeds of dissension were laid by the Assad regime by encouraging conflicts amongst opposition groups. The conflict has its origin in the political structure of Syria, whereby radicalism and use of military force became the order of the day in suppressing peaceful protests, carried out by a population that had lost faith in Assad’s regime because of his long drawn policies of exploiting the masses. The Assad regime is highly authoritarian and has ruled for almost forty years in suppressing the masses and consolidating the nation’s wealth so that it remains within the control of his family and party.

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In assessing Assad’s strategies during his four decades of reign, some authors hold that he has now consolidated himself to such an extent through military strength that there appears to be no point of return unless the global community uses force against him in neutralizing his hold over the country. Given that a nonviolent and buoyant civil movement had rapidly transformed into a brutal civil war, it is evident that Syria is now on the brink of collapse as there is no compliance with the basic tenets of civil and humanitarian processes that have historically characterized positive existence of human societies. In effect, the instability of the regional volatile structures has given way to a larger conflict and the ensuing events will decide how the tenuous though strategically important state will shape the future of its people.7

In the highly globalized environment of today, it is very important for the global community and international organizations such as the United Nations to ensure compliancy with international norms of human rights in order to ensure that sections of the human fraternity are not harassed in unjustified ways. It is the right of all human societies to live in a sustainable environment that guarantees freedom of life and the right to live in humane ways through principles of equality, that are held to be most important by international agencies such as the United nations.

For example, the US is all set to interfere in Syria and to subjugate President Assad’s regime, but it is bound by international laws in respecting the rights of individual nations to resolve their issues on their own, right to autonomy that is inherent in the governance of any country. However, given that the Assad regime has violated human rights and put the country’s population into immense hardships, it is held by many that the global community should interfere and free Syria from the despotic rule of a virtual dictator who has no value for the lives and liberty of his people. However, the major hurdle facing the international community is how to act in response to this human tragedy. Hashemi has held in this regard that the international community does have the means to resolve the crisis by preventing Assad from indulging in violence against his people, but the consequences of the Iraq war are fresh in people’s minds. 8

Consequently, world leaders are not forthcoming in opting for military action against Assad’s regime. Nevertheless, it is imperative that human rights activists, governments and international relations experts come together and find ways of humanitarian interventions in order to ensure sustainability of a society that is on the verge of destruction.

As a consequence of the extreme hardships faced by Syrians, almost 2.4 million people have already fled from the country to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other North African countries. However, most of them live in host communities and not in refugee camps, which has led to humanitarian considerations relative to housing, sanitation, education, health and other social problems, such as social consistency in the host societies. In view of such circumstances, the United Nations Development Program has started the implementation of a resilience based developmental program, directed at improving vocational skills and livelihood of these people in order to provide them with basic rehabilitation and jobs. As per a report issued by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the armed conflict in Syria has led to a situation that can be said to be a humanitarian catastrophe of astounding magnitude.9

The people that have fled from Syria represent the fastest increasing refugee population in the world’s history. It is quite apparent that in keeping with sustainability of global societies, particularly those that are hosting the refugees, the global community will have to exercise high levels of diplomatic and political influence in ending the hostility and creating a meaningful process of negotiation with the objective of stopping the destruction of Syria and reviving optimism amongst the country’s population.


Deen, Thalif. Syrian Crisis Threatens Development in Arab World. Web.

Hashemi, Nader. The Syria Dilemma. Boston:The MIT Press, 2013. Web.

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Hokayem, Emile. Syria’s Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant. New York: Routledge, 2013. Web.

Syrian Center for Policy Research. War on Development. 2013. Web.

UNDP in Arab States. Humanitarian Response to Syria must Address Development Crisis. 2013. Web.

UNDP (Syria). A Resilience-Based Development response to the Syria Crisis. 2013. Web.

UNDP. Lebanon: Economic and Social Impact Assessment of the Syrian Conflict. 2013. Web.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Syria War on Development: Socioeconomic monitoring report of Syria. 2013. Web.

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