By Rania Zanoun
Damascus, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Syria’s government on Wednesday devalued the pound by nearly 44 percent to attract American dollars away from the black market.
The move came amid one of the worst economic crises since the ongoing civil war broke out in 2011. Fresh United States sanctions drawn up as part of the so-called Caesar Act, are also set to take a bit out of the government’s coffers.
The official exchange rate has increased from 704 pounds per dollar, a rate set in January, to 1,256 pounds per dollar, the bank said.
The new rate applies to personal transfers to Syria and operations in foreign exchange institutions, the source added.
The black market rate for the currency is currently around 2,835 pounds to the dollar, having recovered from 3,000 pounds per dollar a few days ago.
The bank said that the decision was made “after studying the economic indicators and prevailing data in order to reach a balance price aimed at bridging the gap between the market price and the price of remittances and attracting them through official safe methods.”
Authorities said that the economic difficulty Syria has been through is “a result of the unilateral tightening of coercive economic measures on the Syrian people through the so-called ‘Caesar Law’ in addition to the continuing economic crisis in Lebanon.”
The situation in Lebanon “led to an increase in demand for foreign exchange in the Syrian market.”
The Caesar Act, approved in December, was activated on Wednesday by the US Department of State. The sanctions target President Bashar Assad and, for the first time, his wife Asmaa, among others.
The first list issued by the US took aim at the elite members of the Assad family of Assad’s as well as businessmen linked to Syrian government, specifically investors in a luxury urban project known as Marota City, located southwestern Damascus.