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Economic crisis looms as the Syrian pound plummets to an all-time low

An employee of the Central Bank of Syria packages banknotes at its headquarters in Damascus, 25/8/2011 (AFP).

 

By Rohan Advani, Walid Al Nofal

 

November 26, 2019
المقال باللغة العربية

AMMAN — Since the outbreak of the revolution in 2011, the value of the Syrian pound (SYP) has plummeted, weakening confidence in the country’s economy. The Syrian pound, which traded at 47 SYP to the dollar at the beginning of 2011 has now exceeded 700 SYP on the black market.

The pound’s collapse has resulted in rising import costs for basic commodities, widespread currency speculation and hoarding of dollars, a foreign exchange crisis at the Syrian Central Bank, and most concerning, a deterioration in the living conditions for the country’s poorest sections of society.

At a parliamentary session in September, members of the Syrian People’s Assembly explicitly criticized the government for not doing enough to boost the economy, counter corruption and improve living conditions for Syria’s poorest. MP Bassim al-Naaemeh directed his criticism at Syrian Prime Minister, Imad Khamis, saying that the performance of the government has been weak and that economic confusion has led to an unstable exchange rate. Similarly, MP Muhammad Khair al-Akkam said the government was doing little to ensure proper tax collection in the country.

In contrast, the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Hazem Qarfoul, described the fall in the value of the Syrian pound as part of a “systematic campaign to weaken the lira [pound] and the economy, undermine confidence in the Central Bank, and incite fear among citizens to abandon their national currency.” In a telephone conversation with the state-run Syrian News Channel, he regarded the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound as “illusory,” adding that it has “no economic rationale and basis on the ground.”

This justification, however, was roundly criticized by parliamentary members. Al-Naameh, for example, characterized the governor’s response as “inconsistent with reality.”

What’s behind the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound?

Although the value of the Syrian pound has undergone a steady decrease since 2011, the black market exchange rate plummeted this year in particular, such that government attempts to remedy the situation have largely failed.
According to David Butter, a political and economic analyst at London-based Chatham House institute, the recent depreciation in the Syria pound may have been triggered by “problems in meeting fuel imports earlier in the year,” which forced “government and private traders to look around for dollars.”

In April 2019, fuel shortages in government areas paralyzed economic activity; donkeys and horse-drawn carriages roamed the streets of Damascus while people formed day-long lines outside gas stations. This prompted private and government importers to finance fuel imports through other methods, putting further pressure on the Syrian pound.
The inability to meet fuel demand is intimately linked to Iran’s dwindling capacity to provide energy to Syria. Earlier this year, Iran stopped selling oil to the Syrian government on its “credit line” – a form of financial aid provided by Iran to Syria to purchase basic commodities – and the weight of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports has aggravated the situation. Moreover, following US pressure on countries delivering oil to Syria, importers have had to rely on more expensive smuggling routes.

Another possible explanation behind the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound is the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria in October. Dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” the Syrian National Army (SNA) with the support of Turkish forces moved into largely Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria, east of the Euphrates. Though not as significant as fuel shortages, Butter added that the changes in the black market exchange rate “is some kind of indication that maybe the Turkish incursion is having an effect.” However, the US decision to retain Syrian oil fields – even as the Syrian government reasserts control in certain areas – has undercut hopes of generating hard currency from future oil sales.

Another important reason for the rapid decline in the value of the Syrian pound may lie outside Syria’s borders. In neighboring Lebanon, a financial crisis is continuing to unfold, with drastic pressure mounting on the country’s currency peg with the US dollar. Following the outbreak of popular protests in mid-October in response to decades of corruption and financial plunder, Lebanese banks closed for almost two weeks with many fearing a potential run on the banks.

After opening and then closing again for a week, banks reopened on November 19 to large lines of customers seeking withdrawals. However, to avoid capital flight, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) announced that cash withdrawals would be limited to $1,000 a week.

For Syrian importers, this spells disaster. Beirut continues to be the main dollar market for Syrian importers who use the Lebanese banking system. As Lebanon’s financial health deteriorates and confronts a nation-wide dollar shortage, Syrian importers are finding it increasingly more expensive to buy dollars to finance their imports. As Butter noted, “the fact that you have foreign currency shortages in Lebanon is likely to have a knock-on effect in Syrian markets.”

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Mystery identity of asylum seeker who died trying to swim the Channel unveiled by ITV

News

Full article and video here

Investigation by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers and Foreign News Editor Jonathan Wald
This report contains images and descriptions some people may find upsetting.
His death made few headlines in Britain in August – another migrant who died trying to cross the Channel.
A photo emerged in the Belgian media, starkly showing the body lying face down having been pulled from the sea.
It was black and white but still harrowing in its portrayal of the man who was wearing a flipper and a homemade buoyancy aid; made from 12 plastic bottles and some crude netting.
He was found in a wind farm 28km off the Beligan coast – but authorities had little else information to work with. Papers he carried suggested his name was Masoud Niknam.
His body was found off the Belgian coast – wrapped in netting and plastic bottles. Credit: ITV News

That led police to think perhaps he was from Iraq.
Weeks later, we filmed his lonely burial near Bruges.
A handful of strangers watched a coffin being lowered into the ground. We were determined to investigate this tragedy, but there was little to go on.
This week all that changed when the man who presided over the funeral told us the police had handed back Masoud’s few possessions.
He entrusted them to ITV News in the hope we could find out more about the man who drowned trying to swim to these shores.
The books Masoud carried were still wet from the sea.


His possessions were few, but led to clues about his life. Credit: ITV News

IDF General: Israel Behind Coup That Installed Al-Sisi Dictatorship in Egypt

Al-Sisi’s government, widely considered a military dictatorship despite a pale sheen of democracy, has forged increasingly close ties with Israel ever since he came to power in the 2013 coup.

Health Benefits of Za’atar

Za’atar has some truly impressive health benefits, including its ability to improve the immune system, boost skin health, build strong bones, increase circulation, clear out the respiratory tracts, soothe inflammation, boost energy, improve mood, aid memory, and potential to treat chronic diseases.
Za’atar

While many spices are delicious and beneficial for your overall health by themselves, powerful flavor and health conditions can sometimes be maximized when combined. Za’atar is one of the best examples, and this Middle Eastern mix consists of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. There are a number of different varieties, occasionally including marjoram or oregano, rather than thyme. These herbs and spices contain a wealth of powerful nutrients and organic compounds, including thymol, gallic acid, carvacrol, and quercetin. By taking in the best of numerous healthy herbs, this spice mix has been popularized throughout the Middle East and is beginning to spread to other parts of the world.

While zaatar is another name for thyme in some cultures, the spice blend with a slightly different name is used in a number of other ways. It is a popular addition to salads, as well as seasonings for meat and vegetables. The flavor, depending on the particular combination, is often described as toasty, tangy, or nutty. You particularly see it with olive oil and bread, and in dips for vegetables. By combining flavonoids, minerals, and other key nutrients, this spicy seed mixture can do wonders for your overall health. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many health benefits of za’atar.

 

Health benefits of za’atar include:
Relief from Symptoms of Chronic Diseases

Sumac, with its healthy supply of quercetin, acts as an antioxidant protecting the body against free radicals that cause various health issues. Numerous studies have shown this benefit of sumac’s organic components, and as a key ingredient in za’atar, this spice mix can significantly boost your protection from chronic diseases caused by free radicals (Mehmet Hakki Alma et al., 2003).
Clear Respiratory Tracts

There are certain expectorant properties of thyme, particularly when it is brewed in a tea. Thyme can help to clear out the respiratory tracts, causing you to expectorate (a cough) out phlegm and mucus, so this potent spice mix can be added to food when you’re feeling a cold coming on. The immune-boosting abilities of the herbs involved also help to ward off illnesses.
Boost Cognition

There are strong traditional beliefs about the cognitive impact of za’atar, including its possibility of improving memory. People used to sleep with za’atar beneath their pillow, but in reality, it could be due to the circulation-boosting powers of za’atar, as well as the rich mineral content that can boost brain power and stimulate neural activity.
Soothe Inflammation

You can make za’atar into a paste or a salve, much as you would to spread on bread, but instead put it on inflamed areas of the skin, such as bug bites and aching joints. When the spice is consumed, it can have a similar anti-inflammatory effect on other parts of the body, particularly if you suffer from arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory conditions in the stomach or respiratory system.
Increase Energy

The high concentration of polyphenols and flavonoids found in this spice mix make it a powerful energy booster that can get your metabolism moving. Furthermore, it can help you get more restful sleep, due to the magnesium found in the mix, helping you feel more energized and ready to face your day each morning.
Improve Mood

Studies and traditional evidence have linked za’atar with improved mood and decreased rates of depression. This use has been popular for generations in the Middle East. The phenol that comes from thyme and oregano may have direct mood-boosting effects by impacting the hormones being released and regulated throughout the body. Carvacrol has been directly linked to increased energy and cognitive function as well.
Strengthen Bones

One thing that these herbs all have in common is minerals, and between the high concentration of iron, calcium, copper, and magnesium, za’atar can have a major impact on bone mineral density. Adding this spice mix to your regular diet can help you ward off osteoporosis and other degenerative bone conditions as you age.
Circulatory Effects

As mentioned earlier, za’atar can help improve the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body thanks to its impressive iron content. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which transports red blood cells throughout the body, ensuring that all organ systems get the oxygen they need.
Immune System Aid

Certain organic compounds found in za’atar spice mix have anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties, making this an all-around powerhouse for your immune system. This includes internal and external applications, keeping your gut, skin, respiratory, and nervous systems functioning at a high, healthy level.

source

Singing in Europe’s last Middle Eastern colony

Why is Israel part of the Eurovision song contest?
by Mariam Barghouti
21 Mar 2019

Presenters Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub show the card of Israel during the Eurovision Semi-Final allocation draw, in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel on January 28, 2019 [Corinna Kern/Reuters]

see article here

Apocalyptic Scenario Beginning In Syria

With with 77 Killed; Over 150K Displaced
REPORTfrom Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations Published on 04 May 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Geneva, Switzerland – In the past 72 hours there has been a surge in airstrikes, barrel bomb attacks and artillery strikes in Idlib and Hama, Syria. At least 77 civilians have been killed and over 150,000 IDPs displaced in the past seven days. Most cities in Northern Hama are almost completely evacuated. The areas are already over populated and lack in camps and housing for the newly displaced, leaving large numbers with no shelter, exposed to the elements. Five medical facilities and five schools were also bombed and put out of service this week. Many hospitals and schools have suspended operations. There are over 3.5 million people in Northwestern Syria including 350,000 people living in refugee camps. The region already suffers from severe shortages in healthcare, food, shelter and sanitation and cannot withstand further destabilization.

The five medical facilities that were targeted and put out of service include: Al Latamna Hospital, Qalaat Al-Madiq Hospital, Al Habeet Primary Health Care Center, Qastoon Primary Health Care Center, and the Surgical Unit in Kafr Naboodha. No casualties were reported from these attacks and one nurse was injured in the Kafr Naboodha attack. Earlier today a Syrian Civil Defense Worker (White Helmet) was killed as he was rescuing people in an attack. The former administration officer of Sham Hospital, a prominent actor in the Hama Health Directorate, and current accountant at the Al-Madiq Hospital, was killed as a missile struck his car near Al Madiq hospital.

“If these attacks are allowed to continue, we will witness the apocalypse in Syria. It will be like nothing we have seen in the past 7 years of war. Specifically, the genocide of thousands of civilians and the displacement of millions to surrounding countries. The battle of Idlib and the refugee crisis it will create will threaten global peace and security. The UN Security council, mandated with upholding global peace and security, along with world at large, must take proactive steps to ensure the battle of Idlib is deescalated and resolved peacefully immediately. Right now, hundreds of thousands of people are being pushed into smaller and smaller areas and will inevitably be slaughtered. We know how this story plays out; the bombing of schools and hospital, indiscriminate barrel bomb attacks, chemical weapon attacks and scores of children brutally disfigured and killed. WE CANNOT LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN!” Said Dr. Hussam Al Fakir, Chairman of UOSSM International

In the strongest terms, UOSSM urges all parties to the conflict to find a peaceful resolution. We urge the UN Security Council and the international community to implement UNSC resolution 2286 for the protection of medical facilities and aid workers. We urge the international community to release emergency humanitarian funding for medical aid, shelter, food, water and sanitation.

Media inquiries and interviews please contact :

Name: Avi D’Souza
Director Of Communications, UOSSM Intl.
Phone: (647) 528-5029
Email: press@uossm.org

About UOSSM :
UOSSM (Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux) provides free medical aid to the people of Syria regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or political affiliation. UOSSM international, founded by Syrian Doctors around the world, started in 2012 and operates 12 major hospitals and supports 120 clinics inside Syria. UOSSM has performed over 1,000,000 medical treatments inside Syria since inception.

source

Steve Bannon

Opinion

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Tuesday, March 26, 2019 Domenico Stinellis,AP

Steve Bannon‘s Fascist Far Right Christian Army Is Marching on Liberal Europe – and on the Pope
Bannon thinks he’s Europe’s savior. He’s also a narcissist, spinmeister and provocateur. But we shouldn’t dismiss his coalition-building efforts to radicalize Europe, empower the far right and declare holy war on the Vatican

see article here

Israel Is Voting Apartheid Gideon Levy


A man walks past electoral campaign posters in Tel Aviv on April 3, 2019.JACK GUEZ / AFP

There will be one certain result from Tuesday’s election: Around 100 members of the next Knesset will be supporters of apartheid. This has no precedent in any democracy. A hundred out of 120 legislators, an absolute of absolute majorities, one that supports maintaining the current situation, which is apartheid.
With such a majority, it will be possible in the next Knesset to officially declare Israel an apartheid state. With such support for apartheid and considering the durability of the occupation, no propaganda will be able to refute the simple truth: Nearly all Israelis want the apartheid to continue. In the height of chutzpah, they call this democracy, even though more than 4 million people who live alongside them and under their control have no right to vote in the election.
Of course, no one is talking about this, but in no other regime around the world is there one community next to another where the residents of one, referred to as a West Bank settlement, have the right to vote, while the residents of the other, a Palestinian village, don’t. This is apartheid in all its splendor, whose existence nearly all the country’s Jewish citizens want to continue.

read on here

Democracy Now

Daily Show Mon, Mar 04, 2019

 

https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2019/3/4

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