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Syrian pound at record low on black market — report

By AFP - Sep 04,2019 - Last updated at Sep 04,2019

BEIRUT — The value of the Syrian pound against the dollar has fallen sharply to its lowest rate in history, an economic publication said on Tuesday.

On the black market on Tuesday, the pound was trading at 650 against the dollar (715 to the euro).

It's "the lowest in history", Jihad Yazigi, the editor-in-chief of the Syria Report economic publication, told AFP.

"The drop is significant" from 500 Syrian pounds to the dollar at the end of last year, he said.

At the start of the war, the rate stood at around 48 pounds per dollar.

Syria Report said on Tuesday that the most recent drop in value was due to several factors.

The devaluation over the past few weeks was likely linked to heightened demand for dollars in neighbouring Lebanon, whose banking system Syrian importers use for their own transactions, it said.

Higher dollar demand in Lebanon has been driven by concerns about a potential looming devaluation of the Lebanese pound, it added.

It might also be tied to rumours in recent days of tensions between Syria's President Bashar Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf, an influential investor, it said.

The official exchange rate on Tuesday stood at 434 Syrian pounds to the dollar, the central bank's website showed, a differential of almost 50 per cent with the black market value.

Syria's eight-year civil war has battered the country's economy, and depleted its foreign reserves.

"The trade balance is in the red as the local production capacity is largely destroyed and imports are needed to meet local demand," Syria Report said.

A flurry of international sanctions have targeted President Bashar Assad's regime and associated businessmen since the start of the war in 2011.

Authorities estimate that since 2011, Syria's key oil and gas sector has suffered some $74 billion in losses.

The United Nations estimates the conflict has caused some $400 billion in war-related destruction.

The war has also killed 370,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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