The population of Syria was estimated at 16,305,659 in July 2000, an increase of 3.4 percent from the 1990 population of 12,116,000. In addition, there are about 38,200 people living in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (excluding nearly 20,000 Israeli settlers). Syria has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. Over the last decade, however, Syria's population growth rate has gradually decreased from 3.30 percent in 1990 to approximately 2.58 percent in 2000. Despite the steady decline in its growth rate, the population is expected to reach 20.9 million by the year 2010.
The economy of Syria is based on a diversified economy that revolves around agriculture, oil, industry and tourism. Its GDP per capita expanded 80% in the 1960s reaching a peak of 336% of total growth during the 1970s. This proved unsustainable and the economy shrank by 33% during the 1980s. However the GDP per capita registered a very modest total growth of 12% (1.1% per year on average) during the 1990s due to successful diversification. More recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected real GDP growth at 3.9% in 2009 from close to 6% in 2008. The two main pillars of the Syrian economy used to be agriculture and oil, which together accounted for about one-half of GDP. Agriculture, for instance, accounted for about 25% of GDP and employed 25% of the total labor force. However, poor climatic conditions and severe drought badly affected the agricultural sector, thus reducing its share in the economy to about 17% of 2008 GDP, down from 20.4% in 2007, according to preliminary data from the Central Bureau of Statistics. On the other hand, higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and led to higher budgetary and export receipts.
During the 1960s, citing its socialist ideology, the government nationalized most major enterprises and adopted economic policies designed to address regional and class disparities. This legacy of state intervention and price, trade, and foreign exchange controls has hampered economic growth. Syria also has low investment levels, and relatively low industrial and agricultural productivity. Economic reform has been incremental and gradual. In 2001, Syria legalized private banking. In 2004, four private banks began operations. In August 2004, a committee was formed to supervise the establishment of a stock market. Beyond the financial sector, the Syrian Government has enacted major changes to rental and tax laws, and is reportedly considering similar changes to the commercial code and to other laws, which impact property rights.
Syria has produced heavy-grade oil from fields located in the northeast since the late 1960s. In the early 1980s, light-grade, low-sulphur oil was discovered near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. This discovery relieved Syria of the need to import light oil to mix with domestic heavy crude in refineries. Recently, Syrian oil production has been about 379,000 barrels per day (bpd). Syria’s oil reserves are being gradually depleted and reached 2.5 billion barrels in January 2009. Experts generally agree that Syria will become a net importer of petroleum by the end of the next decade. Recent developments have helped revitalize the energy sector, including new discoveries and the successful development of its hydrocarbon reserves. According to the 2009 Syria Report of the Oxford Business Group, the oil sector accounted for 23% of government revenues, 20% of exports, and 22% of GDP in 2008. Syria exported roughly 150,000 bpd in 2008, and oil accounted for a majority of the country's export income.
Ad hoc economic liberalization continues to add wealth inequality, impoverishing the average population while enriching a few people in Syria's private sector. In 1990, the government established an official parallel exchange rate to provide incentives for remittances and exports through official channels. This action improved the supply of basic commodities and contained inflation by removing risk premiums on smuggled commodities.
Foreign aid to Syria in 1997 totaled an estimated US$199 million. The World Bank reported that in July 2004 that it had committed a total of US$661 million for 20 operations in Syria. One investment project remained active at that time.
|Year||Gross Domestic Product||US Dollar Exchange||Inflation Index|
|Per Capita Income|
(as % of USA)
|1980||78,270||3.94 Syrian Pounds||8.10||12.17||8,971,343|
|1985||146,225||3.92 Syrian Pounds||14||11.64||10,815,289|
|1990||268,328||28.80 Syrian Pounds||57||4.37||12,720,920|
|1995||570,975||35.30 Syrian Pounds||98||4.18||14,610,348|
|2000||903,944||49.68 Syrian Pounds||100||3.49||16,510,861|
|2005||1,677,417||56.09 Syrian Pounds||122||3.70||19,121,454|
|2010||59,633,000||47.00 Syrian Pounds||21,092,262|
|GDP||$64.7 billion (2011 est.)|
|GDP growth||-14% — -20% (2012 est.)|
|GDP per capita||$5,100 (2011 est.)|
|GDP by sector||Agriculture (16.9%), Industry (27.4%), Services (55.7%) (2011 est.)|
|Inflation (CPI)||30% (2012 est.)|
below poverty line
|11.9% (2006 est.)|
|Labour force||5.642 million (2011 est.)|
|Agriculture (17%), Industry (16%), Services (67%) (2008 est.)|
|Unemployment||12.3% (2011 est.)|
|Main industries||petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly|
|Ease of Doing Business Rank||134th|
|Exports||$12.66 billion (2011 est.)|
|Export goods||crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat|
|Main export partners||Iraq 31.4%, Lebanon 12.7%, Germany 9.2%, Saudi Arabia 5.2%, Italy 4.7% (2009)|
|Imports||$13.81 billion (2011 est.)|
|Import goods||machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper|
|Main import partners||China 10.8%, Saudi Arabia 10.1%, Turkey 7%, UAE 5%, Italy 4.9%, South Korea 4.7%, Germany 4.5%, Russia 4.2%, Lebanon 4.1%, Egypt 4.1% (2009)|
|Gross external debt|