Economist Samir Aita talks about Syria

Bitterlemons interviews the economist Samir Aita.

BI: How can the average Syrian be expected to think about the uprising as the economy gets worse and what does this mean for the opposition?

Aita: The socioeconomic situation is one of the major reasons for the uprising. You have what I call a “youth tsunami” in Syria–300,000 people coming into the labor market every year. In the last 10 years, with all the [government] liberalization, the economy was creating 60-65,000 [jobs], which is really not enough. What is not said is that among those 65,000, there are only 8-10,000 real jobs, i.e., with a real contract and social security and so on. The rest of these are informal jobs, like that of [self-immolated Tunisian Mohamed] Bouazizi, who was university-educated. He was considered statistically as “working”, not jobless, but he was only pushing a small [cart] to sell vegetables and fruits, which is a menial job. This is one of the major reason for the calls for “dignity”.

The second thing is that Syrian society is an exceptional society, meaning that social networks are very, very strong. Syria received during the war in Iraq over two years, 2006 and 2007, 1.5 million Iraqis. [This is comparable to] 7.5 percent of the Syrian population. I don’t know any other society that could receive such a flow of migrants without international aid. This is like saying France received four million people in two years, while France, because of 10,000 Tunisians who came here during the crisis in Tunisia and Libya, was shouting and changed Schengen [a border treaty that sets visa rules], etc.

But what is feared lately is that [Syrian] society has become really exhausted and some of its beautiful functions are deteriorating because of the political money and weapons that are being pushed by some countries, mainly the Gulf countries through Turkey. This is a big push–buying people for a cause, one cause against another. This is very dangerous. This is [making Syria resemble] Lebanon, where political money and foreign intervention have threatened not only to overthrow the regime, but also society.

The regime has already fallen, in my opinion. It cannot survive. But what is to be kept in society? If society collapses and, like [United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria] Kofi Annan is saying, enters civil war, this is disastrous. But maybe some foreign countries want that. [Continue reading...]

(H/t Joshua Landis)

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