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Facts About Syria

Background: Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. Since 1976, Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon, ostensibly in a peacekeeping capacity. In recent years, Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over the return of the Golan Heights.
Government type: republic under military regime since March 1963
Capital: Damascus
Currency: 1 Syrian pound (SYP) = 100 piastres

Geography of Syria

Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E
total: 185,180 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
water: 1,130 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
Coastline: 193 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 41 nm
territorial sea: 35 nm
Climate: mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically hitting Damascus
Terrain: primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 28%
permanent crops: 4%
permanent pastures: 43%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 22% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 9,060 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
Environment – current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining; inadequate supplies of potable water
Environment – international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1999 est.)

People of Syria

Ethnic Syrians are of Semitic stock. Syria’s population is 90% Muslim, 74% Sunni, and 16% other Muslim groups, including the Alawi, Shia, and Druze–and 10% Christian. There also is a tiny Syrian Jewish community.

Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language. Arabs, including some 400,000 Palestinian refugees, make up 90% of the population. Many educated Syrians also speak English or French, but English is the more widely understood. The Kurds, many of whom speak Kurdish, make up 9% of the population and live mostly in the northeast corner of Syria, though sizable Kurdish communities live in most major Syrian cities as well. Armenian and Turkic are spoken among the small Armenian and Turkoman populations.

Most people live in the Euphrates River valley and along the coastal plain, a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. Overall population density is about 140 per sq. mi. Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 11. Schooling consists of 6 years of primary education followed by a 3-year general or vocational training period and a 3-year academic or vocational program. The second 3-year period of academic training is required for university admission. Total enrollment at post-secondary schools is over 150,000. The literacy rate of Syrians aged 15 and older is 78% for males and 51% for females.

Ancient Syria’s cultural and artistic achievements and contributions are many. Archaeologists have discovered extensive writings and evidence of a brilliant culture rivaling those of Mesopotamia and Egypt in and around the ancient city of Ebla. Later Syrian scholars and artists contributed to Hellenistic and Roman thought and culture. Zeno of Sidon founded the Epicurean school; Cicero was a pupil of Antiochus of Ascalon at Athens; and the writings of Posidonius of Apamea influenced Livy and Plutarch. Syrians have contributed to Arabic literature and music and have a proud tradition of oral and written poetry. Although declining, the world-famous handicraft industry still employs thousands.

Population: 18,448,752 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 41% (male 3,410,417; female 3,210,215)
15-64 years: 56% (male 4,688,967; female 4,476,022)
65 years and over: 3% (male 254,448; female 265,590) 
Population growth rate: 2.58% 
Birth rate: 31.11 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 5.29 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 34.86 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.46 years
male: 67.35 years
female: 69.64 years 
Total fertility rate: 4.06 children born/woman 
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Languages: Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 est.)

History of Syria

PRESENT-DAY SYRIA constitutes only a small portion of the ancient geographical Syria. Until the twentieth century, when Western powers began to carve out the rough contours of the contemporary states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, the whole of the settled region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea was called Syria, the name given by the ancient Greeks to the land bridge that links three continents. For this reason, historians and political scientists usually use the term Greater Syria to denote the area in the prestate period.

Historically, Greater Syria rarely ruled itself, primarily because of its vulnerable position between the Mediterranean Sea and the desert. As a marchland between frequently powerful empires on the north, east, and south, Syria was often a battlefield for the political destinies of dynasties and empires. Unlike other parts of the Middle East, Greater Syria was prized as a fertile cereal-growing oasis. It was even more critical as a source of the lumber needed for building imperial fleets in the preindustrial period.

Even though it was exploited politically, Greater Syria benefited immeasurably from the cultural diversity of the peoples who came to claim parts or all of it and who remained to contribute and participate in the remarkable spiritual and intellectual flowering that characterized Greater Syria’s cultures in the ancient and medieval periods. Incorporating some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Greater Syria was in a unique position to foster intellectual activities. By 1400 B.C., Damascus (Dimashq), Aleppo (Halab), Hamah (Hamath), Byblos (Gubla), Joffa (Joppa), Homs, Gaza, Tyre (Sur), and Sidon already had been established; some of these cities had flourished for many centuries. Because Greater Syria was usually ruled by foreigners, the inhabitants traditionally identified themselves with their cities, and in contemporary Syria each city continues to have a unique sociopolitical character.

A recurrent theme of Greater Syria’s history has been the encounters between Eastern and Western powers on its soil. Even in the ancient period, it was the focus of a continual dialectic, both intellectual and bellicose, between the Middle East and the West. During the medieval period this dialectic was intensified as it became colored by diametrically opposed religious points of view regarding rights to the land. The Christian Byzantines contended with Arabs, and later the Christian Crusaders competed with Muslim Arabs, for land they all held sacred.

The advent of Arab Muslim rule in A.D. 636 provided the two major themes of Syrian history: the Islamic religion and the world community of Arabs. According to traditionalist Muslims, the greatest period of Islamic history was the time of the brief rule of Muhammad–the prototype for the perfect temporal ruler– and the time of the first four caliphs (known as rashidun, rightly guided), when man presumably behaved as God commanded and established a society on earth unequaled before or after. During this period religion and state were one and Muslims ruled Muslims according to Muslim law. The succeeding Umayyad (661-750) and Abbasid (750-1258) caliphates were extensions of the first period and proved the military and intellectual might of Muslims. The history of Greater Syria in the early medieval period is essentially the history of political Islam at one of its most glorious moments–the period of the Umayyad caliphate when the Islamic empire, with its capital at Damascus, stretched from the Oxus River to southern France.

A different view of Syrian history denies that the greatness of the Arab past was a purely Islamic manifestation. The history of the Arabs began before the coming of Muhammad, and what Arabs achieved during the Umayyad and Abbasid empires was evidence not only of the rich inheritance from Greek and Roman days but also of the vitality of Arab culture.

Since independence in 1946, Syria’s history has been dominated by four overriding factors. First is the deeply felt desire among Syrian Arabs–Christian and Muslim alike–to achieve some kind of unity with the other Arabs of the Middle East in fulfillment of their aspirations for regional leadership. Second is a desire for economic and social prosperity. Third is a universal dislike of Israel, which Syrians feel was forcibly imposed by the West and which they view as a threat to Arab unity. The fourth issue is the dominant political role of the military.

FROM INDEPENDENCE in 1946 through the late 1960s, Syria stood out as a particularly unstable country in a geographic region noted for political instability. Illegal seizures of power seemed to be the rule as Syrians were governed under a series of constitutions and the nation’s political direction made several abrupt ideological lurches. Therefore, when Minister of Defense Hafiz al Assad assumed authority in yet another coup in November l970, many believed his regime was merely one more in a long string of extralegal changes of government. Indeed, because of the coup’s similarity to previous ones, at the time there was little evidence to suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, from 1970 until mid-1987, Assad has provided Syria with a period of uncommon stability, all the more remarkable when viewed against the backdrop of the nation’s postindependence history of political turbulence.

Although uncertainty and internal tension are threads that run through Syrian history, not all conflict has been negative. From the earliest days of civilization to more recent times, struggle among various indigenous groups as well as with invading foreigners has resulted in cultural enrichment. Phoenicians, Canaanites, Assyrians, and Persians are but a few of the peoples who have figured prominently in this legacy. As significant were the contributions of Alexander the Great and his successors and the Roman and Byzantine rulers.

But as great as these considerable foreign influences were, few would disagree that the most important additions to Syria’s rich culture were made following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Arab conquerors brought Islam to Greater Syria. By A.D. 661, Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, had proclaimed himself caliph, or temporal leader, and established Damascus as the seat of the Umayyad Empire. Thus began a dynasty whose realm stretched as far west as southern France and as far east as Afghanistan, an expanse of territory that surpassed even that which Rome had held a few centuries earlier. Thirteen hundred years after his death, the memory of Muawiyah and his accomplishments still stirs pride and respect in Syria. Likewise, the image of the great Muslim general Saladin (Salah ad Din al Ayubbi), who defeated the Christian Crusaders in 1187, is deeply imprinted on the Syrian psyche.

These native heroes notwithstanding, it was foreign domination that determined the political boundaries of present- day Syria. First the Ottoman Turks, then after World War I the French, and, more recently, the Israelis shaped the contours of the nation, breaking off chunks of what was Greater Syria and repositioning borders to leave the configuration of the contemporary state. In spite of these territorial changes, support for a return to the glory that was Greater Syria and a development of a powerful nation-state has remained strong. Syrians share a vision of a pan-Arab entity–the unification of all Arab brethren throughout the region.

Despite the rhetoric and idealism, in Syria, as in many developing nations, strife between and among communities has hindered development of a genuine national spirit. Also, the importance of regional, sectarian, and religious identities as the primary sources of loyalty have frustrated nation-building. Although about 85 percent of Syrians were Muslims, in 1987 most scholars agreed that the domination of Assad’s small Alawi sect over the larger Sunni community was at the root of much of the internal friction, even though ethnic issues also accounted for a certain amount of tension. Other significant minorities that contributed to social tensions were Druzes, Kurds, Armenians, and Circassians.

Although internal discord is a fact of life in every country in the Middle East, it is difficult to imagine that dissent in any of them could have been met more brutally than it was in Syria in the 1980s. One dissident group was the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni fundamentalist, antigovernment movement whose popularity grew markedly in the late 1970s. Unlike Islamic fundamentalist movements in certain other Middle Eastern countries, the Muslim Brotherhood opposed the Assad regime not so much for its secularism as for its sectarian favoritism. To protest Alawi domination, the Muslim Brotherhood and other like- minded groups undertook a series of violent attacks against the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party government. After Assad’s attempts at negotiation failed, Muslim Brotherhood attacks increased in frequency, and the government responded in kind. Using his armed forces, in late 1981 Assad finally isolated Muslim Brotherhood adherents in their strongholds of Aleppo and Hamah. In February 1982, with no regard for civilian safety, the full force of the Syrian army was brought to bear on the rebels in Hamah. Entire sections of the city, including the architecturally magnificent ancient quarter, were reduced to rubble by tank and artillery fire, as upward of 25,000 citizens were killed. This lesson in abject obedience was not lost on the populace, for as of mid- 1987, the Muslim Brotherhood and its antigovernment allies were almost moribund.

Other violent stresses on internal stability occurred later in 1982. In June, Israel invaded Lebanon with the stated aim of driving away Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas from Israel’s northern border. After a few days of fighting and constant Israeli advances, it became obvious that Israel’s goal was not merely the creation of a security zone, but rather the complete destruction of the PLO or at least its forced expulsion from Lebanon. In achieving this objective, armed confrontation with Syrian forces was inevitable. Although some of the Syrian units gave a good accounting against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in general the IDF overwhelmed the Syrians. This domination was nowhere more evident than in air battles over the Biqa Valley in which the Israeli Air Force destroyed nineteen air defense sites and downed more than eighty Syrian aircraft, while losing only two aircraft. Despite these setbacks, as the only Arab leader to stand up to the Israeli assault, Assad gained the respect of other Middle Eastern states. The defeats were not enough to induce Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, and eventually it worked out a modus vivendi with the IDF.

But for Syria there was no relief from internal pressures. Having weathered a “miniwar” in Lebanon, in 1983 another crisis arose when in November Assad suffered a severe heart attack that hospitalized him for several months. In February 1984, in a premature effort to succeed his brother, Rifaat al Assad moved his Defense Companies (now called Unit 569) into positions around the capital. Fighting broke out but soon subsided; however, in May it erupted once more in Latakia. As Hafiz al Assad recovered and reasserted his authority, he neutralized political opportunists (including his brother) while making changes in the Baath Party and army hierarchies. To restore faith in his regime, Assad began promoting a personality cult, the net effect of which was to identify government with Hafiz al Assad rather than to encourage government through political and social institutions. Thus, in 1987 many concerns remained about succession and about whether or not Syria could peacefully survive the loss of Assad as the adhesive that held together the diverse elements of society.

An added concern was the perilous state of the economy. Years of drought in the early 1980s had effectively stymied agricultural growth. By the time production began to rebound in the mid-1980s, commodity prices for Syria’s agricultural goods were dropping. Furthermore, the fledgling oil industry was retarded by the worldwide slump in petroleum prices and by Syria’s own decision to cease pipeline transportation of Iraqi oil, thus surrendering lucrative transit fees. Moreover, Syria’s stance in the Iran-Iraq War and its intransigence on other regional matters so angered wealthier Arab nations that they reduced financial support to the Assad regime.

And perhaps most salient, the need to provision tens of thousands of troops stationed in Lebanon and to maintain strong defenses against Israel caused a crushing defense burden. Although figures on defense outlays varied widely, in the late 1980s they apparently accounted for anywhere from one-third to just over one-half of all government spending. Regardless of which figure is accepted, clearly military spending was inhibiting development by diverting funds from desperately needed social programs.

The armed forces has played a central role in Syria’s recent social and political history. As in many Third World countries, the army has provided minorities with a channel for upward mobility. Alawis in particular used this route of social advancement, and by the early 1960s they held influential positions in the military government. When in 1966 General Salah al Jadid overthrew General Amin al Hafiz, a Sunni, for the first time in the modern era an Alawi ruled Syria. Jadid, in turn, was overthrown in 1970 by Assad, another Alawi. Since then Assad has seen to it that only trusted relatives or friends, most of them Alawis, occupied or controlled politically sensitive or powerful positions. Similarly, because the armed forces are both the mainstay of his regime and the most likely threat to it, Assad has been deferential to the needs of the military forces and has raised the standard of living for those in uniform.

In addition to domestic discord, Syria has been subjected to many external strains. Not the least of these has been Syria’s long-standing engagement in Lebanon. Although some analysts saw this involvement as part of a desire to recreate Greater Syria, others viewed it as a pragmatic manifestation of Assad’s ambitions toward regional hegemony. Regardless of motive, Syria’s presence in Lebanon presented dangers and opportunities. The principal problem was that the worsening Lebanese situation jeopardized the safety of Syrian troops and drained Syria’s fragile economy. Nevertheless, at various times since 1976, Syrian intervention has had the positive effect of quelling some of the violence that has swept Lebanon and raised faint hopes of peace. Such positive intervention occurred most recently in February 1987, when Assad sent his forces into West Beirut to restore order to the Muslim half of the city.

Some scholars call Syria a nation of contradictions with good reason. Certainly these are inconsistencies in Syria’s regional and international politics. In spite of the pan-Arab ideology that is at the heart of the ruling Baath Party principles, Syria was one of only two Arab states (Libya being the other) supporting non-Arab Iran against Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. In addition, Syria’s steadfast refusal to negotiate with Israel ever since the June 1967 War and its support for radical Palestinian factions have set it apart from most of the Arab world.

In foreign relations, Syria proved it could be a supportive friend or obstinate foe–in fact, sometimes both within a short period of time. For example, every few years Syria seemed to begin a rapprochement with Jordan and Iraq, its neighbors to the south and east, but these thaws in otherwise cool relations have been short. Likewise, relations with various Lebanese and Palestinian factions have blown hot and cold.

Certainly the Soviet Union has found Assad a less than pliable client. Throughout the Soviet-Syrian relationship, Assad has taken much more in military assistance than the Soviets have received in terms of influence in Syria or the rest of the region. For the most part, Soviet efforts to dominate Syrian political and even military activities have had limited success.

In 1987 Assad was thought by many to be an enigma, thus his nickname, “the sphinx.” Having survived the tribulations of seventeen years of rule, he deserved his reputation as a wily and able politician. Diplomatic and practical when circumstances called for these qualities, Assad could also be manipulative and merciless, especially with regime opponents. Syrian dissidents in exile or regional political enemies have not been immune from Assad’s intelligence and security networks. Insofar as Assad has assented to terrorist training in Syrian-controlled Lebanon and even on Syrian soil, he most likely has at his disposal a pool of individuals willing to carry out certain violent missions. Clearly, media attention given to Syria’s complicity in terrorist incidents in Western Europe in the mid-1980s has underscored such activity.

In summary, in mid-1987 Syria was enjoying a period of unprecedented internal stability. In many ways, Assad had very nearly realized his ambitions for leadership in regional affairs. Syria was a key to the Palestinian problem and to any resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute; it was also at the vortex of the Lebanese situation. Furthermore, it was making its presence felt in the Iran-Iraq War. Its economy, although by no means burgeoning, was at least resilient in the face of difficult circumstances. And even though its international image was tarnished because of its association with terrorism, that, too, was improving as a result of Syria’s crackdown on Shia extremists in Lebanon. Most troublesome, perhaps, was the unresolved question of who would succeed the somewhat frail president. It was uncertain if any successor could overcome the conflicts that were sure to surface after Assad or could maintain the nation’s pace of development.

August 31, 1987

Syria Economy

Syria is a middle-income developing country with a diversified economy based on agriculture, industry, and energy. During the 1960s, citing its state socialist ideology, the government nationalized most major enterprises and adopted economic policies designed to address regional and class disparities. This legacy of state intervention and price, trade, and foreign exchange controls still hampers economic growth, although the government has begun to revisit many of these policies, especially vis-à-vis the financial sector and the country’s trade regime. Despite a number of significant reforms and ambitious development projects of the early 1990s, as well as more modest reform efforts currently underway, Syria’s economy still is slowed by large numbers of poorly performing public sector firms, low investment levels, and relatively low industrial and agricultural productivity.

Despite the mitigation of the severe drought that plagued the region in the late 1990s and the recovery of energy export revenues, Syria’s economy faces serious challenges. With almost 60% of its population under the age of 20, and a growth rate (3.5%) among the world’s highest, unemployment higher than the current estimated range of 25%-30% is a real possibility unless sustained and strong economic growth takes off. Oil production has leveled off, and financial aid flows from the Gulf have slowed.

Taken as a whole, Syrian economic reforms thus far have been incremental and gradual, with privatization not even on the distant horizon. The government, however, has begun to address structural deficiencies in the economy such as the lack of a modern financial sector through changes to the legal and regulatory environment. In 2001, Syria legalized private banking; private financial institutions may emerge in 2002, as may a nascent stock market. Beyond the financial sector, the Syrian Government has enacted major changes to rental laws, and is reportedly considering similar changes to the commercial code and to other laws, which impact property rights.

Commerce has always been important to the Syrian economy, which benefited from the country’s location along major east-west trade routes. Syrian cities boast both traditional industries such as weaving and dried-fruit packing and modern heavy industry. Given the policies adopted from the 1960s through the late 1980s, Syria failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy. In late 2001, however, Syria submitted a request to the World Trade Organization to begin the accession process. Syria had been an original contracting party of the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade but withdrew in 1951 because of Israel’s joining. Major elements of current Syrian trade rules would have to change in order to be consistent with the WTO. Syria also continues to discuss a possible Association Agreement with the European Union that would entail significant trade liberalization.

The bulk of Syrian imports have been raw materials essential for industry, agriculture, equipment, and machinery. Major exports include crude oil, refined products, raw cotton, clothing, fruits, and grains. Earnings from oil exports are one of the government’s most important sources of foreign exchange.

Of Syria’s 72,000 square miles, roughly one-third is arable, with 80% of cultivated areas dependent on rainfall for water. In recent years, the agriculture sector has recovered from years of government inattentiveness and drought. Most farms are privately owned, but important elements of marketing and transportation are controlled by the government.

The government has redirected its economic development priorities from industrial expansion into the agricultural sectors in order to achieve food self-sufficiency, enhance export earnings, and stem rural migration. Thanks to sustained capital investment, infrastructure development, subsidies of inputs, and price supports, Syria has gone from a net importer of many agricultural products to an exporter of cotton, fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. One of the prime reasons for this turnaround has been the government’s investment in huge irrigation systems in northern and northeastern Syria, part of a plan to increase irrigated farmland by 38% over the next decade.

Syria has produced heavy-grade oil from fields located in the northeast since the late 1960s. In the early 1980s, a light-grade, low-sulphur oil was discovered near Dayr az Zawr in eastern Syria. This discovery relieved Syria of the need to import light oil to mix with domestic heavy crude in refineries. Recently, Syrian oil production has been about 530,000 barrels per day. Although its oil reserves are small compared to those of many other Arab states, Syria’s petroleum industry accounts for a majority of the country’s export income. The government has successfully begun to work with international energy companies to develop Syria’s promising natural gas reserves, both for domestic use and export. U.S. energy firm, Conoco, completed a large natural gas gathering and production facility for Syria in late 2000.

Ad hoc economic liberalization continues to provide hope to Syria’s private sector. In 1990, the government established an official parallel exchange rate (neighboring country rate, or NCR) to provide incentives for remittances and exports through official channels. This action improved the supply of basic commodities and contained inflation by removing risk premiums on smuggled commodities.

Over time, the government has increased the number of transactions to which the more favorable neighboring country exchange rate applies. The government also introduced a quasi-rate for noncommercial transactions in 2001 broadly in line with prevailing black market rates. Nonetheless, some government and certain public sector transactions are still conducted at the official rate of 11.2 Syrian pounds to the U.S. dollar or at other rates, and exchange-rate unification remains an elusive goal.

Given the poor development of its own capital markets and Syria’s lack of access to international money and capital markets, monetary policy remains captive to the need to cover the fiscal deficit. Interest rates are fixed by law, and most rates have not changed in the last 20 years. Some basic commodities continue to be heavily subsidized, and social services are provided for nominal charges.

Syria has made progress in easing its heavy foreign debt burden through bilateral rescheduling deals with virtually all of its key creditors in Europe, although debt owed to the former Soviet Union remains an unsolved problem.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $50.9 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 3.5% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $3,100 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 29%
industry: 22%
services: 49% (1997)
Population below poverty line: 15%-25%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.3% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 4.7 million (1998 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 40%, industry 20%, services 40% (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate: 12%-15% (1998 est.)
revenues: $3.5 billion
expenditures: $4.2 billion (1997 est.)
Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
Industrial production growth rate: 0.2% (1996 est.)
Electricity – production: 17.5 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel: 42.86%
hydro: 57.14%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)
Electricity – consumption: 16.275 billion kWh (1998)
Agriculture – products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
Exports: $3.3 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Exports – commodities: petroleum 65%, textiles 10%, manufactured goods 10%, fruits and vegetables 7%, raw cotton 5%, live sheep 2%, phosphates 1% (1998 est.)
Exports – partners: Germany 14%, Turkey 13%, Italy 12%, France 9%, Lebanon 9%, Spain (1998 est.)
Imports: $3.2 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment 23%, foodstuffs/animals 20%, metal and metal products 15%, textiles 10%, chemicals 10% (1998 est.)
Imports – partners: Ukraine 16%, Italy 6%, Germany 6%, Turkey 5%, France 4%, South Korea, Japan, US (1998 est.)
Debt – external: $22 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $199 million (1997 est.)
Currency: 1 Syrian pound (SYP) = 100 piastres

Map of Syria