Syria keeps food, electricity subsidies despite war: PM

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi says rice, bread and sugar have cost the state $900 million

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Despite a raging war, Syria has kept in place subsidies for electricity and basic foods, the prime minister said Monday, as the regime tries to drum up support in areas its control.

"The government continues to subsidize staple food products, as well as the electricity sector," Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi told parliament.

He said rice, bread and sugar -- key staples subsidized by the government -- have cost the state 180 million Syrian pounds ($900 million) despite soaring, war-induced inflation.

Another 418 billion pounds ($2 billion) go towards funding electricity subsidies, Halqi said.

Analysts and officials have warned that the nearly four-year war and international sanction imposed on Syria have set back the economy by more than 30 years.

More than half of the population is unemployed, and gross domestic product has shrunk by nearly 50 percent.

Nearly four million people have been forced by war to flee Syria altogether, and millions more are living in misery in areas that have fallen out of government control.

Pro-regime daily Al-Watan recently said government subsidies on oil products had shrunk by nearly 80 percent by the end of 2014.

In October, the government stopped subsidizing fuel for businesses for the first time in decades.

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