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Syria slashes imports to save foreign reserves

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Importers require government licences that allow them to request a favourable exchange rate at the Syrian central bank.

But the government has in recent months issued fewer licences, and the central bank has increasingly declined to offer importers the favourable conversion rate to importers.

“A month ago, I got a text message from the economy finance ministry telling me that because of the shrinking foreign currency reserves, I would no longer get the preferential dollar rate at the central bank,” one importer of consumer goods told AFP.

An official at Syria’s economy ministry, quoted by the Al-Watan daily, said two-thirds of import licences granted in the last quarter of 2014 went to industries considered essential, including fuel, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
That quarter, the government received import requests worth $2.7 billion, but only granted import licences worth $1.2 billion, the official told the newspaper.