The cautious economic reform program begun under H. al-Assad in the 1990s was significantly accelerated after his son Bashar came to power. Against the background of declining oil revenues, the aim was to transform the former planned economy into a market economy. The increase in the pace of reform with the aim of encouraging private capital to invest more was due to the country’s foreign trade situation, which had become much more difficult since the 3rd Gulf War. With the Syrian Civil War and the i.a. Sanctions imposed by the USA and the EU collapsed and the supply situation for large parts of the population became precarious. With a gross national income (GNI) per resident of US $ 2,750, Syria was one of the middle-income developing countries in 2010.
Foreign trade: Syria’s foreign trade volume is heavily dependent on the price of crude oil, with crude oil and petroleum products accounting for more than a third of exports. Foreign trade is severely restricted by war and international sanctions (from 2011/12). In addition to oil, Syria exported textiles and cotton, food, and metals and metal products. On the import side, there were fuels, chemical products and metals, as well as food. The most important trading partners were Arab states.
According to youremailverifier, agriculture (including forestry and fisheries) remains an important factor in the Syrian economy despite accelerated industrialization. It generates (2016) around 19.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs around 17% of the workforce. The ownership structure has been fundamentally changed by agricultural reforms that have been carried out in the meantime; private and cooperative ownership are predominant. The main crops are wheat, barley, fruit (especially grapes) and vegetables (especially tomatoes), olives and sugar beets. The main cultivation areas extend over the coastal strip, the arable plains in the north and northeast (new development in the Djesire) and the irrigation areas on the Euphrates and Khabur. The irrigated area covers about 1.34 million hectares, which is about a third of the arable land. The entire central and eastern part of Syria can only be used for grazing purposes. Livestock breeding, especially extensive sheep farming, has a share of around 30% in agricultural production.
The heavy, sulfur-rich crude oil, which was discovered in northeast Syria in 1966, has been extracted since 1968 and has been exported since the mid-1970s. New oil deposits (including the largest oil deposits in Syria to date) have been developed and exploited since 1984 near Deir ez-Zor in the east of the country; the oil extracted here is light and low in sulfur and can therefore also be processed in the local refineries (Homs and Banias). The – declining – oil production reached 1.1 million t in 2016. The secured reserves are only 300 million t. The production of natural gas could be increased after the turn of the millennium. However, the delivery volume has fallen sharply again since 2011 (2016: 3.6 billion m 3); it is mainly used for the operation of power plants and for further processing. The most important raw material after crude oil and natural gas is phosphate, which has been mined at Palmyra since 1973 and around 80% exported. The mining volume is 750,000 t (2015) (2011: 3.5 million t). There are also natural asphalt deposits as well as rock salt and gypsum deposits.
In the manufacturing industry, which generated around 19% of GDP in 2016, the oil and gas sector dominates. The most important areas of the manufacturing industry are the food, textile and clothing industries. Younger sectors are the chemical industry, machine and vehicle construction as well as the cement and production of fertilizers from natural phosphate. The industry is mainly concentrated in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama and Homs. The handicraft has a long tradition.
In 2010, 8.5 million foreign guests, mostly from Arab countries, visited Syria. The income amounted to US $ 3.8 billion and was thus an important economic factor. With the civil war (from 2011) tourism came to a standstill. In addition to natural landscape attractions, the old towns of Damascus and Aleppo, the ancient sites of Palmyra, Bosra and in the northern Syrian limestone massif (Christian “Dead Cities” and Simeon’s monasteries) as well as the fortresses of Arabs and crusaders were the main attractions.
The traffic routes are relatively well developed in the more densely populated western Syrian region. The railway network connects the industrial areas in the north with the port cities and Damascus. It is connected to the Turkish and Iraqi networks. The most important mode of transport, however, is the approximately 70,000 km long road network, on which around 95% of goods are transported. The main traffic axis runs as a north-south highway from the Turkish border via Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus to Jordan. The largest sea ports are those of Latakia, Banias (petroleum terminal) and Tartus (Phosphate export, grain import). International air traffic is maintained by the national airline Syrian Arab Airlines and the private Cham Wings Airlines, founded in 2007. The main airport is Damascus International Airport.