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Shackled: Syria’s uprising exacts heavy toll across Economy
Businessmen and analysts say the Syrian economy is shrinking; the IMF forecast a 2 percent contraction for Syria in 2011, in contrast to 3 percent growth which it predicted earlier this year
October 14, 2011 2:00 by Reuters
In a restaurant in the once bustling Hamidiyah souk of the old city of Damascus, waiters prepare to serve a handful of customers in an ornate room with many empty tables. A singer now performs there weekly, instead of every day.
“The number of customers has almost halved,” says Ahmad, a manager at the famous Abu al Izz restaurant, as he reminisces over days when he would turn away diners who could find no place to sit at the establishment’s 250 tables.
Across cities, towns and rural parts of Syria, six months of pro-democracy protests aimed at overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad, and their violent suppression, have claimed hundreds of lives and put severe stress on the country’s $60 billion economy.
Business sentiment has soured alongside a strong security presence in the capital and major cities, while in the restive provinces of Hama and Idlib, army checkpoints have transformed some residential areas into conflict zones.
In the five years before the uprising, when the authorities reformed a Soviet-style command economy to allow greater private sector involvement, boutique hotels sprang up in the old city of Damascus to cater to tens of thousands of tourists fromEurope and weekend visitors from neighbouring countries. Many of these hotels say they are now welcoming few if any guests.
“There is no occupancy at all and I don’t know if I am going to close or continue,” said the owner of a 12-room boutique hotel in an area where several establishments that housed European and American tourists have shut.
October 14, 2011 | Analysis