US economic sanctions on Syria could impact population

By Rania Zanoun

Damascus, Jan 11 (efe-epa).- Syria’s central bank has been targeted by the most recent round of sanctions imposed by the United States under the Caesar Act, which experts warn that would worsen the economic crisis in the Arab country.

Washington has imposed six rounds of sanctions on people, companies and entities with links to the government of Bashar al-Assad since the implementation of the act, named after a military police photographer who leaked photos of 11,000 people killed while in custody.

In the most recent of these sanctions, the Treasury Department added the central bank to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), which seizes properties in the US or in Washington’s hands, as well as the prohibiting business dealings with targets of the sanctions.

The new package, the severest since the act came into force, does not differ in essence from the sanctions previously imposed on the central bank, which has been banned from issuing foreign exchange money and international credit and financial transactions.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, multiple sanctions have been imposed on the Syrian central bank to limit the state’s ability to utilize its funds and resources in foreign currency to secure the necessary needs including oil, food and medicine despite excluded from the sanctions,” Adib Mayale, former governor of the Central Bank of Syria, told Efe,

Syria has been struggling with a shortage of basic products, including bread and fuel, which has been largely attributed to the collapse of the local currency, with the exchange rate on the black market doubling the official one, and the sanctions that limit the state’s import capacity.

The sanctions have caused “serious difficulties” for the central bank and the banking sector in general, especially when it comes to initiating documentary credits or issuing and receiving endorsements from other international entities, Mayale added. 

“This led to weakening the banks’ ability to facilitate foreign trade operations and settle commercial transactions, in addition to the great difficulties in shipping operations to Syria and the high insurance costs of shipped goods,” Mayale said.

The sanctions in general have led to the deterioration of the microeconomic indicators in the Arab country, including growth, inflation and public debt, he warned.

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