President Bashar al-Assad has described the depreciation of the Syrian pound against the US dollar as a “foreign plot,” calling on all strata of the society to stick by the state, join forces and counter the slide of the currency.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting in Damascus on Tuesday evening, Assad said Syria has been able to make unprecedented achievements in its fight against the economic terrorism being waged by the Western countries, particularly the United States.
He said the collapse of the Syrian pound is an onslaught launched from abroad against the war-torn country.
The falling exchange rate is part of the “psychological war being waged [against Syria]. Just like any other battle, we have to inform the public about the circumstances surrounding the process, and let people know the campaign is as important as military operations meant to restore stability…,” Assad said.
The Syrian president also called on the government and the nation to support production, asking the Ministry of Economy and Trade to intervene immediately and deal with the “unjustified high prices” in the country.
Assad also said traders could not justify changing prices within hours, stressing those profiting from the depreciation of Syrian pound would be punished.
“It is no less important than the military battle ... If the citizen does not stand by state institutions in this war, the institutions will lose,” he told the cabinet session.
“Any trader benefiting now is a thief,” Assad said. “It is imperative that we intervene, and with force.”
Syria’s economy has been battered by more than a decade of foreign-sponsored war, and is now reeling from the knock-on effects of a financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon.
Back on November 5 last year, Assad blamed the financial downfall in Lebanon and not the sweeping US sanctions as the root cause of the ongoing economic crisis in war-ravaged Syria.
The Syrian president said anywhere from $20 billion to $42 billion of Syrian deposits could have been lost in the once vibrant banking sector that held over $170 billion in foreign currency deposits.
Syrian businessmen say Lebanon’s tight controls on withdrawals have locked hundreds of millions of dollars once used to import basic goods from oil to commodities into Syria.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.
In parallel with the militancy, the Arab country has been the target of several sets of sanctions by the US and its European allies, which have been supporting the militant groups operating against the Assad government.
The US and its allies have stepped up their economic terrorism over the past years and further tightened their unilateral restrictive measures against the Syrian nation, after the foreign-sponsored militants failed on the battlefield and began to take stinging blows from the Syrian army and its allies.
In June last year, the US imposed a set of much-criticized sanctions, called the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, targeting individuals and businesses anywhere in the world that operate either directly or indirectly in Syria’s economy.
Damascus has slammed the sanctions as “a crime against humanity and a flagrant violation of the international law that targets the livelihood of the Syrians.”