Syria working to compensate for fall of currency
DAMASCUS - The Syrian government said on Wednesday it was working on a plan to prop the ailing pound, which has lost more than 120 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the civil war two years ago.
"There is a government plan and measures will be taken to compensate for the fall of the pound against foreign currencies," official media quoted Syria's central bank governor Adib Mayale as saying.
The Syrian pound has been in freefall against the dollar since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, selling on Wednesday for 110 SYP to the dollar, compared to 50 SYP to the dollar in early 2011.
Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi chaired a meeting of the economic committee "to take a series of urgent measures to strengthen the national economy," the state SANA news agency reported.
After the rise in "terrorist and criminal operations, accompanied by an economic and media war" against Syria, "the government must establish new working mechanisms likely to contain the fall of the pound against other currencies and ensure the needs of citizens," Halqi said.
"Despite the current economic challenges, Syria possesses strategic reserves of foreign currency and will continue to resist," he said, without providing details.
In February a Western diplomat based in London said that Syria will exhaust its foreign currency reserves in three to five months, due to international economic sanctions that have been slapped on Assad's regime.
"Foreign reserves are down, probably haemorrhaging up to $3 billion (2.3 billion euros) a month," the diplomat told reporters in London at the time.
"We think the reserves will probably be exhausted in three to five months," he said, adding that this was his government's "best estimate" at a time of scant reliable data on the Syrian economy.