Posted by Joshua on Monday, March 8th, 2010
Samir ‘Aita is writing a series of articles on the economic disaster befalling the North-East of Syria. They are published in Arabic on all4Syria’s daily newsletter that is sent out by email. For some reason they are not copied on the website.
‘Aita argues that the economic plight of the region is not merely a result of drought and natural bad luck. Rather, he suggests that drought has merely exacerbated the effects of a policy begun almost a decade ago – a policy to pull the plug on Syria’s socialist agriculture. He points out that Syria has lost some 40% of its agricultural manpower in an ongoing migration that has few parallels in the country’s modern history. ‘Aita makes the point that this migration began in 2003-2004, well before the drought had begun to make matters worse and speed up the exodus. The government is dismantling the country’s socialist infrastructure while neglecting to replace it with a social safety net that might protect the most vulnerable, who lose what land they have, are forced to sell off their few livestock, and ultimately join the flood of poor headed for the city slums. State services that might have softened the blow for Syria’s farmers are also deteriorating. Starved for funds and with dwindling political commitment, Syria’s socialist agrarian institutions cannot keep up and are collapsing. As the political establishment adopts a liberal economy philosophy, Syria’s rural poor have little choice but to abandon less productive lands and head for the cities to build a new future.
From reading IFAD reports, the great engine of rural poverty is the population explosion combined with the absence of alternative job creation, brought about by a failing rural education system and no proper mechanisms for agricultural loans and micro-finance that could help the landless poor start small businesses.
Here are some rural poverty statistics provided by IFAD
In rural areas, almost 50 per cent of the labor force is employed in agriculture. Overall, about 25 per cent of young men (20 — 24 age group) are unemployed, with the result that many Syrians migrate to Lebanon to find work.
In 2004, the livelihoods of about 56 per cent of rural poor people depended on agriculture, a sector characterized by low productivity and an irregular demand for labour. More than 77 per cent of poor rural people were landless, though they had other assets such as cattle, sheep or other animals.
Poverty is prevalent among:
* tenant farmers and small-scale farmers
* small-scale herders
* labourers with no access to land
* unemployed young people
* rural women, particularly women who are heads of households
Households headed by women are often dependent on irregular or insecure sources of income, such as money sent home by migrant family members. They are particularly vulnerable to external economic shocks. Families with large numbers of children and widows with children are more likely to be poor.
The north-eastern region is the poorest and most deprived part of Syria. Poverty rates in other parts of the country declined between 1996 and 2004, but the incidence and severity of poverty increased in rural areas of the north-eastern and coastal regions. The numbers and proportions of landless people have increased steadily over the last three decades throughout the country, but the increase is particularly high in the north-east. Poverty is most severe and most concentrated in the three economically depressed eastern provinces of Deir Ezzor, Hassaka and Raqqa.
The main causes of rural poverty in Syria include:
small and fragmented nature of farms
water shortages and the drying up of groundwater wells, coupled with persistent droughts
lack of access to credit and markets
lack of appropriate technology
Other causes of poverty include:
* illiteracy, which affects about 28 per cent of rural adults
* large number of landless people, whose skills are limited
* high rate of rural population growth
* large proportion of young people and the growing number of new entrants to the job market
* lack of a suitable microfinance system responding to the needs of rural poor people; this limits employment opportunities and inhibits the development of on-farm and off-farm enterprises to create new jobs
‘Aita worries that recent Saudi investment in Syrian agriculture may create a new phenomenon of big estates run by agribusinesses that shifts land ownership out of the country.
قضايا اقتصاديّة واجتماعيّة (2)
هل هناك إشكاليّة زراعيّة في سوريّة؟
سمير العيطة* : (كلنا شركاء) 6/3/2010
تطرح التصريحات الحكوميّة عن الجفاف وتداعياته والمشاهدات العيانية في الريف (1) إشكالية ما إن كانت “الأزمة” التي تعيشها بعض المناطق في سورية (المنطقة الشرقية أو إقليم الجزيرة، وكذلك مناطق أخرى كسهل الغاب أو سهول حلب وإدلب)، مردّها المورد المائي أم عنوان أزمة تحوّل في قطاعٍ ما زال يشكّل جزءً ملحوظاً من الناتج المحلّي للبلاد ؟
صحيحٌ أنّ قيمة الإنتاج الزراعي (بأسعار 2000 الثابتة) قد انخفضت عام 2007 الذي تميّز بجفافه بنسبة 13% عن عام 2006؛ إلاّ أنّ هذه القيمة تزيد بنسبة 12% عمّا كانت عليه عام 2000 (1). وصحيحٌ أنّ بعض القطاعات الفرعيّة تعاني مشاكل تفاقمت بعد 2007؛ إلاّ أنّ سورية ما زالت (حسب منظّمة الأغذيّة والزراعة للأمم المتحدة) من بين الدول الأولى عالميّاً في بعض الصادرات الزراعيّة (2). إذاً، وبرغم الكثير الأمور، لا تكمن المشكلة الأساسيّة في الإنتاج.
..أمّا فيما يتعلّق بالعمل والتشغيل، فتبدو المشكلة أوضح: إذ انخفض عدد المنخرطين في القطاع الزراعي (مباشرةً أو بشكلٍ غير مباشر) من 1.4 مليون شخص إلى حوالى 800 ألف بين 2002 و2008؛ أي بنسبة 44%. ولم يطل هذا الانخفاض إقليم الجزيرة فقط (-50% مثلاً في محافظة الحسكة)، بل أيضاً محافظة السويداء (-67%) وريف دمشق (-60%) ومحافظتي إدلب (-59%) وحلب (-54%) وحتّى اللاذقيّة (-28%). وأكثر من الرجال (-30%)، طال الأمر خاصّةً النساء (-68%) اللواتي يشاركنَ عامّةً أكثر في العمل بالأرياف ممّا هو في المدينة
Militants vs. moderates
Robert Malley and Peter Harling
Shifting allegiances in Middle East mean opportunities for President Obama…..
Today, the relevant competition in the Middle East is not between a pro-Iranian and a pro-American axis but between two homegrown visions. One, backed by Iran, emphasizes resistance to Israel and the West, speaks to the region’s thirst for dignity and prioritizes military cooperation. The other, symbolized by Turkey, highlights diplomacy, stresses engagement with all parties and values economic integration. Both outlooks are championed by non-Arab emerging regional powers and resonate with an Arab street as incensed by Israel as it is weary of its own leaders…..
His administration must start by discarding a reading of the region in which “moderates” fight “militants,” and “moderates” prevail. That vision has no local credibility or local resonance. It has no chance.
Gideon Levy at his best: The Israeli peace camp didn’t die. It was never born in the first place. While it’s true that since the summer of 1967, several radical and brave political groups have been working against the occupation – all worthy of recognition – a large, influential peace camp has never existed here. It’s true […]
Once justice dwelled in Jerusalem, now settlers do
By Avraham Burg
Greater, unified Jerusalem is being torn apart. The Israeli – Jewish and Arab – capital is becoming the capital of the hallucinatory, dangerous fanatics. This is not the city of all its residents nor the capital of all its citizens. It is a sad city that belongs to its settlers, its ultra-Orthodox, its violent residents and its messiahs.
The prophet asked, “How is the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers” (Isaiah 1: 21). We haven’t had murders here yet, but the nation’s soul is dying here every day before our very eyes. The Israeli spirit of justice is being run roughshod by politicians, settlers and judges. The national soul is being slain with red tape and bureaucratic indifference.
Yes, the capital of the Jewish people – the people that always swore not to do to others what it would not have done to it – has become a harlot. Morally wanton, emotionally sealed-off. It is manipulated by its shepherds for their benefit and is full of law – everyone is suing everyone else, hiding behind the laws of injustice. And the judges – as though forced – issue rulings in accordance with discriminatory laws, unique to the “chosen people.” Once justice dwelled here. Now the settlers do, murderers of the nation’s soul.
And no one utters a word, but for a few patriots. People of truth and morals who refuse to stand idly by while the state of Jewish refugees repeatedly throws Palestinian families into the street and hands their miserable homes over to bearded, blaspheming thugs.
These people of integrity are the leftists of Jerusalem, who have been through countless clashes with the “Jerusalem syndrome” loonies. ….
Gulf Finance House Plans to Form Islamic Bank in Syria
2010-03-07, By Shaji Mathew
(Bloomberg) — Gulf Finance House EC, the Bahrain-based investment bank, plans to form an Islamic bank in Syria with a capital of 15 billion Syrian pounds. Gulf Finance plans to sell 30 percent of Syria Finance House in an initial public offering after getting approval from the Central Bank of Syria, it said in an e-mailed statement.
Conservative critics of Syria are apoplectic about the State Department returning an ambassador to Syria and have been calling for congress not to confirm.
Obama Talks, Syria Mocks
The wages of appeasement.
BY Elliott Abrams
March 15, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 25
The Obama administration has from the start seen Syria as a leading case for engagement….. What is to be done? First, the United States should acknowledge that engagement has failed and end it. No more high-level visits, no ambassador, no WTO. If the Obama administration insists on crawling forward, the Senate should not confirm the nominee for ambassador, and Congress should by legislation prevent any further weakening of our economic sanctions against Syria. Second, the United States should loudly and frequently condemn continuing Syrian human rights violations; there are fish in this barrel and we should start shooting them. Third, we should raise in the United Nations Syria’s continuing violations of Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701 (barring violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and arms supplies to Hezbollah).
Ytzhak Benhorin – Ynet – Senators to Obama: Don’t send ambassador to Syria
Republican senators demanded that the Obama administration cancel the appointment of a new US ambassador to Syria. In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend, six senators asked for an answer before the nomination of career diplomat Robert Ford is sent to the floor for the consideration of the Senate….
Commentary Magazine: Syria Engagement, or How America Loses Its Soul
America’s founders fought an eight-year war that killed 25,000 of their countrymen — 1 percent of the total population of our fledgling republic — in order to be free.
Iraq has seen 9,400 men in uniform killed since the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. That’s not even half of a 10th of a percent of the nation’s population of almost 24 million.
That’s because 4,379 American troops were killed and 31,693 more were wounded trying to rescue Iraq.
But it’s also because the civilian population of Iraq has absorbed so much of the blow. Estimating the number of Iraqi civilians killed by terrorists is difficult, but there is broad consensus that more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed during the post-invasion insurgency.
American history has no parallel to that kind of civilian sacrifice.
Baghdad alone lost almost 30,000 of its 6.5 million civilian residents in the first three years of the allied occupation. Losing so many people so fast in a city the same size as the Dallas metro area means that every family paid part of the human price.
As for the financial price, we’ve footed the tab.
We have spent $700 billion on our Iraq democracy project — as much as the Bush-Obama bailout package.
We fought the entire Second World War and funded the Marshall Plan at a cost, in 2010 dollars, of about $3 trillion. So at least on a per-person-liberated basis, Iraq has been our most expensive nation-building project ever: about $30,000 per Iraqi.
We have spent more than $257 billion blowing up and rebuilding Afghanistan — about $22,000 per Afghan — and the administration will have to spend at least an additional $100 billion on the second Obama surge.
There are half as many Afghans as Iraqis, but they are spread out over a country that is 50 percent larger and has neither a middle class nor a history of central government. President Obama may yet take the title of most ambitious nation builder away from George W. Bush.
But for now, the Iraq project remains unparalleled. An increasing number of Americans believe that our commitment to Iraq has been worth the effort. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in December found that 57 percent of Americans thought the war had been at least somewhat successful, up from 43 percent in July 2008….
Flotilla sailing from Turkey to break the Siege of Gaza
Contact: IHH, Ahmet Emin +90 530 341 19 34
Free Gaza Movement, Eliza Ernshire +44 754 011 22 94
Yesterday, the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH), announced a joint venture, sending 10 boats in the spring of 2010 to the besieged Gaza strip. Organizations from Greece, Ireland and Sweden have also promised to send boats to join the flotilla with the Free Gaza movement and Turkey.
Mr. Bulent Yildirim, chairman of the IHH said, “We sail in the spring to Gaza, and our last port is freedom; freedom for the 1.5 million Palestinians denied the right to rebuild their society. We will never stop sailing until Israel’s siege is lifted.”
Two cargo ships will be part of the flotilla, one donated by the Malaysia-based Perdana Foundation and one from IHH. Both will be laden with building supplies, generators and educational materials that Israel prohibits from entering Gaza since their brutal attack on the civilian population a year ago.
The many passenger boats accompanying the cargo ships will carry members of Parliament from countries around the world as well as high-profile journalists and human rights workers.
According to the chair of the Free Gaza Movement, Huwaida Arraf, “The illegal blockade on Gaza and Israel’s continued intransigence make a mockery of international law. If our governments will not take a stance to stop Israel’s abuse of the Palestinian people, global civil society is showing that we will.”