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Syria crisis

Syria approves $5 bln budget for 2022 as crisis bites

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Syrian lawmakers have approved a draft budget for 2022 of $5.3 billion, down from $6.8 billion this year, as a spiraling economic crisis hits public finances and threatens subsidies on essential goods.

A decade of war, Western sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the Syrian economy, pushing most of the population into poverty as the value of the Syrian pound has plummeted.

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Government spending has been cut by more than 40 percent over the past two years, with cuts threatening a critical social support program.

The 2022 budget, which still requires President Bashar al-Assad’s signature, was set at 13.325 trillion Syrian pounds, the official SANA news agency reported late Tuesday.

That is equivalent to $5.3 billion when calculated at a central bank exchange rate of 2,512 pounds to the dollar.

The budget for this year, which was calculated according to a previous exchange rate of 1,250 pounds to the dollar, stood at 8.5 trillion pounds ($6.8 billion).

In 2020, it was estimated at nearly $9 billion.

Finance Minister Kanan Yaghi pledged that “the policy of social protection is a stable one that won’t be tampered with” in the coming year, SANA reported.

He said the 2022 budget set aside 5.53 trillion Syrian pounds ($2.2 billion) for a social support program that includes subsidies on key items such a fuel, wheat, flour, sugar and rice.

Last year, the government set aside 3.5 trillion Syrian pounds ($2.8 billion) for social support.

“The government is in the process of implementing a new formula for support with the aim of delivering it to those who need it most,” SANA quoted Yaghi as saying.

The budget also allocated around 2 trillion pounds for investment and set the projected deficit for next year at 4.1 trillion pounds ($1.6 billion).

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