The Great Unknown
The civil war in Syria is now in its fifth year. We regularly hear of the atrocities occurring throughout the country. Barrel bombs are being dropped on innocent civilians, families are forced to flee their homes, and villages are turned to rubble on a near weekly basis.
What we rarely hear being discussed is the absolute spiral Syria’s economy has taken in the few short years since the conflict began. We rarely discuss the crumbling infrastructure or the time and financial cost for Syria to rebuild.
Experts have discussed the toll civil wars can have on a nation’s economy- generally a 1.25 percent drop in GDP per year. What about Syria’s GDP? In 2013, they tracked a staggering 21 percent drop in GDP. In 2014? It apparently wasn’t measurable! Experts from Harvard’s Center for International Development claimed “[Syria’s] economy is so broken that there are no statistics available” to measure the nation’s economy. The European Council on Foreign Relations claims Syria’s Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a nation’s life-expectancy, education and employment opportunities, is similar to levels from 1977.
Citizens who haven’t fled Syria are left to struggle. Most are unemployed, basic necessities are not only scarce but also unaffordable, and petty crime is rampant as it can be the only means to survival. These everyday struggles are only temporarily forgotten when the sound of war planes can be heard overhead.
With an estimated 11 million of its citizens having fled and no end in sight to the conflict, what does the future hold? It’s pretty clear any attempt to rebuild Syria’s economy will have to wait until the fighting stops. The United Nations conservatively estimates it will take around 30 years for the economy to return to pre-war levels. Not bad to rebuild a nation’s economy, right? Well, that conservative 30-year time frame only refers to the rebuilt industrial infrastructure and possibility of capital investments returning to the country. No one knows if there will even be a labor force to make it succeed.
The catalyst to ensuring the return of Syria’s diverse economy lies in its people. The toll this conflict has taken on all of Syria’s citizens could simply be too much. Those who have fled may not return. Those who remained- especially the children- will have grown up without the skills necessary to succeed in a rebuilt economy. Stopping the fighting is the first step but Syria’s crisis won’t truly be over until its diverse economy returns and citizens can once again prosper.
Sources: Global Envision