Syria approves $5 bln budget for 2022 as crisis bites

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Syrian lawmakers have approved a draft budget for 2022 of $5.3 billion, down from $6.8 billion this year, as a spiraling economic crisis hits public finances and threatens subsidies on essential goods.

A decade of war, Western sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the Syrian economy, pushing most of the population into poverty as the value of the Syrian pound has plummeted.

Government spending has been cut by more than 40 percent over the past two years, with cuts threatening a critical social support program.

The 2022 budget, which still requires President Bashar al-Assad’s signature, was set at 13.325 trillion Syrian pounds, the official SANA news agency reported late Tuesday.

That is equivalent to $5.3 billion when calculated at a central bank exchange rate of 2,512 pounds to the dollar.

The budget for this year, which was calculated according to a previous exchange rate of 1,250 pounds to the dollar, stood at 8.5 trillion pounds ($6.8 billion).

In 2020, it was estimated at nearly $9 billion.

Finance Minister Kanan Yaghi pledged that “the policy of social protection is a stable one that won’t be tampered with” in the coming year, SANA reported.

He said the 2022 budget set aside 5.53 trillion Syrian pounds ($2.2 billion) for a social support program that includes subsidies on key items such a fuel, wheat, flour, sugar and rice.

Last year, the government set aside 3.5 trillion Syrian pounds ($2.8 billion) for social support.

“The government is in the process of implementing a new formula for support with the aim of delivering it to those who need it most,” SANA quoted Yaghi as saying.

The budget also allocated around 2 trillion pounds for investment and set the projected deficit for next year at 4.1 trillion pounds ($1.6 billion).

AFP

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