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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Syrian Government Overlooks Protests, Raises Oil Prices

The Syrian government announced a significant hike in oil derivative prices, despite the protests, just a month after increasing state workers’ salaries, alongside a suite of economic measures that have exacerbated living conditions for many.

Addressing the People’s Assembly, the government justified these economic decisions, attributing the nation’s financial struggles mainly to the war.

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous remarked that defending the country negatively impacted the national economy, asserting that Syria has triumphed in its battle for sovereignty and dignity and preserving an independent nationwide decision.

Arnous presentation notably sidestepped the widespread protests in Sweida in response to the government’s measures that saw a 300 percent increase in oil derivative prices.

It led to an unprecedented price surge and a collapse in the living standards for a vast segment of Syrians.

Currently, nearly 90 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line, with more than 15 million needing humanitarian assistance, a trend sustained over the past years, according to this year’s data from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The government acknowledged its limitations in addressing the economic crises, and the Prime Minister reiterated his administration’s commitment to covering the costs of this year’s public expenditure.

He summarized the procedures adopted by the government to tackle the situation, noting that the cabinet has taken a series of remedial measures, some of which are of phased features, others of long-term strategy, and all have development dimensions.

In a sudden move, the Ministry of Internal Trade announced on Sunday a decision to raise the prices of several oil derivatives, including diesel, free fuel oil, liquefied gas, and gasoline.

Economists predict that this will further increase the prices of goods, living necessities, and transportation.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the sharp rise in the exchange rate has contributed to an increase in the bill for public expenditure, reaching figures exceeding the limits of some of the state’s general budget.

It has also exacerbated the deficit gap between resources and public spending.

He pointed out that those with limited incomes suffer the most from the decline in their purchasing power.

Arnous indicated significant challenges in providing support in traditional ways, which drain the state’s resources.

Meanwhile, protests in Sweida continued, with many demanding the implementation of United Nations Resolution 2254.

Local sources have reported calls for evening protests throughout the rural areas of Sweida province.

Citizens took to the streets in protest against the decision of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava) to increase diesel prices.

Hundreds of city residents participated in strikes in al-Qamishli, al-Malikiyah, and Ayn al-Arab after the Administration increased oil prices threefold in an area rich in oil and energy fields.

A Kurdish Rojava official revealed that the price increase included all industrial facilities, tourist vehicles, hospitals, private companies, and the management of civil and military institutions.

Hundreds of Qamishli residents, political figures, and activists protested Monday before the municipality headquarters, chanting against the Rojava decisions.

Politician Hassan Saleh said they hope the Administration will back down, warning that the price increase exceeds people’s capabilities.

Furthermore, shop owners announced a general strike in al-Malikiyah against the price increase, calling families to participate.

Citizens of Ain al-Arab also went on strike and closed the industrial area completely. They marched the streets chanting against the Rojava decision.

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