Syrian Economy
Economy - overview: Syria's economy continues to deteriorate amid the ongoing conflict that began in 2011. The economy further contracted in 2014 because of international sanctions, widespread infrastructure damage, diminished domestic consumption and production, reduced subsidies, and high inflation. The government has struggled to address the effects of economic decline, which include dwindling foreign exchange reserves, rising budget and trade deficits, and the decreasing value of the Syrian pound and household purchasing power. During 2014, the ongoing conflict and continued unrest and economic decline worsened the humanitarian crisis and elicited a greater need for international assistance, as the number of people in need inside Syria increased from 9.3 million to 12.2 million, and the number of Syrian refugees increased from 2.2 million to more than 3.3 million. Prior to the turmoil, Damascus began liberalizing economic policies, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange, but the economy remains highly regulated. Long-run economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, water pollution, and widespread infrastructure damage.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $107.6 billion (2011 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $64.7 billion (2011 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: -2.3% (2011 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $5,100 (2011 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 16.4%
industry: 22.7%
services: 60.9% (2014 est.)
Labor force: 4.022 million (2014 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 17%
industry: 16%
services: 67% (2008 est.)
Unemployment rate: 33% (2014 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed): 21.7% of GDP (2009 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.73 billion
expenditures: $5.5 billion (2014 est.)
Public debt: 57.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 34.8% (2014 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 0.75% (31 December 2014)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 17% (31 December 2014 est.)
Agriculture - products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly
Industrial production growth rate: 1% (2014 est.)
Electricity - production: 29.48 billion kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity - consumption: 25.7 billion kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity - imports: 1.234 billion kWh (2012 est.)
Oil - production: 22,660 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Oil - consumption: 256,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2012 est.)
Oil - imports: 0 bbl/day (2012 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 2.5 billion bbl (1 January 2015 est.)
Natural gas - production: 5.3 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 5.65 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 350 million cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
Current account balance: -$4.575 billion (2014 est.)
Exports: $2.031 billion (2014 est.)
Exports - commodities: crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
Exports - partners: Iraq 63.8%, Saudi Arabia 11.1%, Kuwait 7%, UAE 6%, Libya 4.5% (2014)
Imports: $7.657 billion (2014 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
Imports - partners: Saudi Arabia 24.5%, UAE 12%, Turkey 10%, Iran 8.9%, Iraq 7.3%, China 5.5% (2014)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.725 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Debt - external: $11.64 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Exchange rates: Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar - 152.9 (2014 est.), 108.426 (2013 est.), 64.39 (2012 est.), 48.371 (2011 est.), 11.225 (2010 est.)
economic climate  
The government has set a high priority on economic reform. Much of the economy is still state-owned and highly regulated. Some measures have been introduced to promote private enterprise and attract foreign investment; fiscal policy has focused on an overhaul and simplification of the convoluted tax system. The cabinet has been tasked to accelerate the economic reform process, although it is likely to encounter many of the same obstacles as its predecessors in the form of well-entrenched vested interests and monopolies.
The agricultural sector, cotton is the principal commodity and a key export. Wheat, barley, fruit and vegetables are the other main products, the bulk of which are grown for domestic consumption.
Oil is the main industry and provides two-thirds of Syrian export earnings, although the future of the sector is limited by the relatively small size of the Syrian Arab Republic’s reserves (which are already over half-exhausted). There are also reserves of phosphates (another export earner), iron ore and natural gas.
The rest of the industrial economy is divided roughly between three areas: chemicals, rubber and plastics; textiles and leather goods; and food and drink. The service economy is relatively under-developed but expanding rapidly: tourism especially has seen exceptional growth to the extent that the Syrian Arab Republic now receives over one million visitors annually.
A particular problem for the Syrian economy in a very arid region is the availability of water. The Syrians have concluded a long-term agreement with Turkey over use of the northern part of Tigris / Euphrates river system (which also serves Iraq), but this is still a highly sensitive issue.
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Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: 1. CIA, The World Factbook,
3. DIBNC Experts Team