Posted by Joshua on Sunday, November 14th, 2010
President Al-Asad has issued a decree granting a one-time 50 per cent bonus on government salaries. This is done in view of eid al-adha. The one time bonus equals syp 12.5 billion or $270 million, which equals about 0.49% of Syria’s GDP.
The 50-per cent bonus on monthly salaries and wages is to cover civilian and military public service workers inside and outside Syria. The bonus is exempt from income tax, and covers those working in joint sector companies in which the state has a 75-per cent share.
The program is thought to cost syp 12.5 billion. This is $270 million. Because this sum is 50% of the total government monthly salaries, we can assume that the total monthly salaries come to $540 million a month or $6.48 billion a year. This equals 11.6% of Syria’s $55 billion GDP.
Syria’s government employment roll is 1,072,000, according to Syria’s Statistical Abstract (2009). This figure excludes military and security forces, which are estimated at more than 300,000. Thus, the number of people employed by the government is close to 1.4 million, excluding pensioners.
[Addendum 11/15/]: Syria Steps reports some troubling news. The government admits to only having been able to create 39,000 jobs last year versus the 250,000-300,000 objective. The actual number of created jobs was only 16% of the target. If GDP or “real” growth of 8% was that target growth rate that was estimated to be able to create 250,000-300,00 jobs, one can conclude that growth was only 16% of the 8% target. This works out to be 1.25%, suggesting that real GDP growth was only slightly higher than 1%. This number supports the lower growth figures that Syria Steps reported on last week and which Syria Comment covered as well. Admittedly, these numbers are calculated in the crudest fashion possible. Unfortunately, we must resort to such inadequate techniques to verify the government figures, which are not always as transparent as we would like.
Ehsani calculates Syria’s average monthly government salary to be in the $270 range:
When the government raised heating-oil (Mazoot) prices back in 2008, it said in this Reuters article:
The increase, which will take effect this month, covers 2 million public workers and retirees, the state news agency said.
If there were 2 million public workers and retirees, then we get an average monthly salary of $270. (syp 12.5 billion is $270 million.) Since the bonus is 50% of the monthly salary cost, this means the monthly cost is double the bonus ($540 million). Dividing 540 million by 2 million workers and retirees, yields an average monthly salary of $270, or syp 12,500, which is exactly what I have argued it is all along.
To take it one step further, if you include the armed forces, which are estimated at 400,000, the 540 million would have to be divided by 2.4 million people. The average salary is $225 or SYP 10,400. We can conclude that the average Syrian government salary is i the range of $225 – $ 270 a month.
Pensions are at 70% of salaries, so if one tweaks the calculations appropriately, the monthly government salary is $270, or syp 12,487, which I am fairly confident is correct. $270 a month is $9 a day for a family. If the family is more than four members, it will fall below the UN poverty line of $2 a day.
[Thanks to Ehsani and Elie for these calculations.]
Read Marc Lynch’s excellent article on Lebanon’s Special Tribunal: The Zombie Tribunal for Lebanon
… anyone who has followed the investigation of Hariri’s murder over the last five years will remember being flooded with leaks, analysis and evidence which supposedly established the culpability of the Syrian regime with absolute certainty. We all read books, articles, op-eds, blog posts and official reports placing Syria’s responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt. And then suddenly “new information” — which most people in the region understood to be conveniently discovered in a new political climate — led the STL to stop pursuing the Syrians and shift to Hezbollah. The Arab media has not failed to notice.
What are we to make of its really quite shocking reversal? Why should we consider the evidence now pointing to Hezbollah credible given the seeming collapse of the supposedly iron-clad case against Syria? Most discussion of this fairly obvious point that I’ve seen in the Western media has been framed around Hezbollah’s “efforts to discredit the STL.” But the STL’s credibility problems seem a bit more real than that. If Hezbollah were really responsible than a strong case could be made for pursuing justice regardless of the consequences. But from the outside, it really does look an awful lot like the STL is being used as a political weapon against Hezbollah at a time of mounting fears of its power and of allegedly rising Iranian influence in Lebanon. …
U.N. Nuclear Chief Sets Sights on Syria
BY: JAY SOLOMON | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog said he is open to demanding intrusive new inspections of alleged Syrian nuclear sites, signaling a potential hardening of the international community’s position….
IAEA chief indicates the body is ‘reluctant’ to push for inspections in Syria over a possible nascent nuclear program (Haaretz)
The United States has suggested the IAEA could invoke its “special inspection” mechanism to give it the authority to look anywhere in Syria on short notice.
Asked in New York why the Vienna-based U.N. agency was reluctant to request a special inspection in Syria, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said there was no longer a site to investigate.
“If the facility is there, it’s easy to go and look and confirm if it is a reactor or not,” he told reporters at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But the facility is gone.”
While Amano said he would be open to seeking a special inspection in the future, he said he had not strengthened his position on Syria and that, for now, the IAEA was focused on seeking cooperation with the Middle Eastern country.
“There is talk, there is cooperation. On Dair Alzour, not yet, but why don’t we hope?” Amano said. …. Diplomats and analysts believe the IAEA will refrain from escalating the dispute as tensions rise with Iran, which the West suspects of seeking nuclear weapons
Shana Marshall, a graduate student at Princeton who has written some excellent articles on the Syrian economy, writes:
The Syrian International Academy (SIA) was a cooperative endeavor between Al Jazeera’s training center (for journalists) and the Syrian PR Association. Apparently the folks at IWPR were using some of the students from the academy to write for them – which fell afoul of someone with at least some measure of authority – who closed down the SIA despite the presence of numerous big-wigs on the academy’s board of directors and within its general administration….
Syrian industry minister Fouad Al Jouni has said investors have been invited to help revamp the country’s under-performing industrial sector but privatisation is not on the table, Reuters has reported. “We have adopted this principle towards every public sector industrial company that needs to be modernised. We are ready to begin negotiations with any investor,” Jouni said. “But there is no sale of public industrial assets. Privatization is prohibited and workers rights cannot be compromised,” he added.
Bush: Olmert asked to me to strike Syria, but I refused
By JPOST.COM, 11/05/2010
Former US President George W. Bush has revealed that he considered ordering the US military to strike a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Israel’s request in 2007, however in the end he opted against it.
In his memoir, “Decision Points,” which is due to be released on Tuesday, Bush says he received an intelligence report about a “suspicious, well-hidden facility in the eastern desert of Syria,” and then telephoned then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss what action to take.
Reports at the time suggested that Israel was behind the bombing that eventually destroyed the facility, which Syria denied was aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Bush writes that Olmert’s “execution of the strike” against the Syrian compound made up for the confidence he had lost in the Israelis during their 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which Bush feels was bungled.