Saturday, February 9, 2008

SYRIA: Wealth gap widening as inflation hits poor

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

"....The contrast of Samir’s life with the growing affluence of Damascus is palpable. Expensive Western-style stores selling Prada shoes and Swiss watches are growing more numerous by the month, but for most Syrians they remain firmly out of reach.

“Prices have gone crazy and it continues day by day,” said Samir. “Now I see many more rich people, but also many more poor people.”.....

The plight of Samir reflects a worrying trend in Syria: the widening gap between rich and poor and the inability of a large segment of Syrian society to survive financially as their economy makes the painful adjustment from Soviet-era central control to the perilous freedom of market forces.

According to a recent survey of 1,000 people in Damascus conducted by the Syrian Economic Centre (SEC), 70 percent of respondents believe their financial situation has “deteriorated seriously” in the last two years.

Safi Shujaa, director of the SEC, says the wealth gap between rich and poor has expanded notably. “In Syria the growth rate is a strong 6 percent but the question is: who gets this growth? According to some economists, 70 percent of gross domestic product goes to only 30 percent of Syrians.”....."

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