Syrian parliament has recently passed the State Budget for 2015, which it annoucned as being the largest in the history of Syria. The Budget reached 1554 billion Syrian Pounds; but if converted into its US dollar equivalent value, the budget will be estimated at half that of the 2011 budget, according to a study conducted by the Oumran Center for Studies in Turkey. Thus, economically speaking, this increase was considered as being largely artificial, due to the Syrian currency's collapse.
No Increase in Subsidies
A larger State Budget will usually positively reflect upon the lives of citizens, in terms of an increased per capita income. Yet this large annual budget increase has not, in this case, been translated in an increased support to boost per capita income.
According to the study conducted by the Oumran Center for Studies, the value of the subsidy in the 2015 budget increased without an actual increase in support of the prices of fuel, electricity, and basic commodities.
The budget has, however, allocated part thereof to the families of the regime army's dead and injured, in an attempt to maintain its social support base, according to the center.
Salah, a government employee, tells Rozana: "We had heard that the subsidy portion of the new annual budget had increased. This should normally mean that prices should decrease, as a result of an increased quantity of subsidized items in the galleries of the [government-owned and managed] Storage and Marketing Establishment, as well as the General Consumption Organization—which the state claims are cheaper than market prices. Prices have, inversely, been noticeably increasing from time to time, as well as diesel prices; a matter to which the government has always accustomed us."
Fadia, a public sector teacher said that she, at first, felt optimistic when she heard of the increase in the new Budget. She adds: "Our hopes were swiftly dashed, when we followed government officials' statements and financial analyists' opinions, and upon learning that this budget was approved with no increases in the salary portion thereof this year."
Journalist and economic analyst Ranim Salem, spoke to Rozana, explaining that "the Salaries', Wages', and Compensations' allocation in the 2015 budget appropriations was estimated at 316 billion [Syrian] Pounds—up 5 billion pounds from that of 2014."
She adds: "Interestingly, this budget had been calculated on the basis of an entirely fictional dollar exchange rate of 150 [Syrian] Pounds [vs. the dollar]. This is less than the Central Bank of Syria's Bulletin's officially announced exchange rate of 183 Pounds; notwithstanding the actual market rate of 210 Pounds."
According to Salem, the regime's Finance Minister Ismail Ismail had explicitly announced that "there will be no salary increase," adding that this would be offset by "rationalizing support so that it actually arrives to those who deserve it."
The Budget Comes Out of Our Pockets!
Samer, a Damascus bank employee, says that the huge budget goes to fund military operations: "We [citizens] cough up the money for the Budget. That should be returned to us in the form of increased subsidies."
Samer's words are confirmed by analyst Ranim Salem, who says: "The regime has actually resorted to raise support by raising fuel prices, even surpassing international price levels by circa 25%. This is part of the regime's effort to reduce the Budget deficit amounting to 561 billion [Syrian] Pounds through imposing more taxes and fees." These amount to 99% in the 2015 Budget according to Salem, who adds that this actually helps keep the huge Budget figures nothing except "a media facade, of which the poor may read but cannot actually touch."
Another economic analyst, speaking on condition of anonimity, says that the Budget's figures are entirely fudged, with the sole aim of convincing citizens that the government is seeking to improve their standard of living.
It is clear from the current Budget numbers, that the government's public spending policy during the four years of the crisis, has been predicated upon the expansion of commercial expenditures, which reached their peak in the 2015 Budget, reaching 73.6% of total expenditures.
This is due largely to the spending that has been allocated to finance the requirements of security operations at the beginning of the Revolution.
Military spending from outside the budget has also increased, representing 1.7% of GDP in 2011; 11% in 2012, and; 15.9% in 2013—reflecting a sharp increase in military expenditures.
According to the analyst: "When preparing the State Budget, the government does not take into account the benefit that would accrue to the country; rather harnessing the budget with the solde aim of serving the regime's interests."