In Damascus, citizens quiet as bread prices rise


February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015

The Syrian Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection announced an increase in the price of bread last month, from SP25 [$0.14] to SP35 [$0.19], reported state-owned news agency SANA.

The move is slated to increase pressure on Syrians already suffering from a damaged economy, Kareem a-Shami, the alias of a member of the pro-opposition Damascus Media Office, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.

“The constantly deteriorating Lira and rise in prices is breaking the backs of citizens.”

But despite its unpopularity, the rise in the price of bread is unlikely to lead to protests or any other outward signs of discontent.

“There are matters more important than bread that the regime imposed on the Syrian people, which they should have protested against [but didn’t],” al-Shami says.

“So how are they going to protest today over SP10?”

Q: Do people in regime-controlled areas think that the regime has a right to raise the price of bread?

I can’t answer that question on behalf of all people living in regime-controlled areas, especially because society has split, noticeably, along class lines: The rich, poor, and middle class. What I don’t doubt is that the people have become aware that the Syrian Lira is depreciating considerably, and that its value is going down daily in the international markets.

The rise in the price of bread is something expected, it’s not new. Like the rest of the food items that got more expensive.

All of the elements that are used to make bread got more expensive, from flour to fuel, so subsequently the raise in the price of bread is considered inevitable.

Bread is the main nutritional component for all Syrians, regardless of their class, and is the cheapest food item for all.

Its rise in price is not because of a government decision as much as a natural result of the Lira’s depreciation and the rise in the price of everything in Damascus.

DamascusMarket Al-Marjeh neighborhood in Damascus in late January. Photo courtesy of Lens young Dimashqi.

Q: Are people thinking of protesting the rise in the price of bread?

It’s extremely unlikely. There are matters more important than bread that the regime imposed on the Syrian people, which they should have protested [but didn’t].

So how are they going to protest today for the sake of 10 Syrian Lira [a few pennies]?

Add to that the repression the Syrian regime employs against any protest or popular movement, and that’s what makes the citizen think a thousand times before he comes out against any decision.

Q: Is there enough bread for civilians in Damascus?

The rise in the price of bread does not mean a lack of bread. The bread crisis gets worse and then subsides from time to time. You’ll rarely find a bakery that doesn’t have a long line outside—but bread is available to all, despite the fact that it’s hard to get.

Q: How do people balance income and daily needs?

People have to come up with a plan that corresponds with their income. There are a lot of things that the citizen has had to do without as prices have gone up, a lot of luxuries [e.g. shopping, outings]. The purchase of certain necessities has become a dream for the citizen, something pleasurable.

The constantly deteriorating Lira and rise in prices is breaking the back of the citizen. He can’t do anything except to save a lot, and only buy necessities.

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