business‎ > ‎

Syrian Pound Plummets Leaving Refugees Abroad Struggling

posted 11 Sept 2013, 07:14 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Sept 2013, 07:15 ]

Syrian refugees in Jordan struggle as the value of the Syrian pound continues to drop, due to the ongoing war in their home country.

MAFRAQJORDAN (SEPTEMBER 8, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Living in a refugee camp in Jordan, thousands of Syrians are struggling to get by.

Many left everything behind to flee the violence in their home country.

But their plight is compounded by the falling value of the money in their pockets.

The ongoing civil war and worries about a potential U.S. strike on Damascus have pushed the Syrian pound down even further against the dollar.

Syrians living in the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan say the low value of their currency is making it even harder for them to afford basic necessities.

"The Syrian currency has no value here. For example, if you want to get 100 Jordanian dinars to live on, you need at least 33,000 Syrian pounds, or 35,000 Syrian pounds. Before [the crisis], the Jordanian dinar was worth 60 Syrian pounds. Now it has no value or role. The dinar is okay, the dollar is okay, everything is fine except the Syrian currency," said Hussein Hourani, who owns a currency exchange shop in the camp.

The camp, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north east of the capital Amman, is home to more than 120,000 Syrians.

The Jordanian authorities are struggling to keep up with the increasing needs of the camp's residents and only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid pledged to help the Syrian refugees has arrived.

Camp residents say they are trying as best they can to help each other.

"We assign the price of the Syrian pound against the Jordanian dinar according to the dollar. For example, today, the price is 296, to which we add four degrees, so the final price is 300. But here in the camp, in order to help our fellow citizens, we don't sell for 300. We remove the four degrees and sell for 296," said Abu Abdul Rahman, a Syrian who owns another currency exchange shop in the camp.

Local exchange dealers in Jordan's capital, Amman, say there is almost no demand for the Syrian currency, especially with the threat of a U.S. military strike.

The owner of one currency exchange shop, Yasser Abu Sheikha, said the decline in demand had been particularly noticeable in recent weeks.

"With regards to the Syrian pound, before the crisis its price was, every Jordanian dinar was worth 70 Syrian pounds. Now, and as of today, every dinar is worth 300 Syrian pounds," he said.

He said the Syrian pound had lost so much of its value that Syrians were struggling financially both at home and abroad.

"The value of the Syrian pound has dropped by 400 percent, so inflation followed suit. The prices in Syria are certainly different, and many things have changed with the currency. We often hear about the high prices there. Here, 1,000 Syrian pounds can't buy anything. Inflation exists and it may become worse. If the situation remains as it is, the value of the Syrian pound may drop even further," said Abu Sheikha.

Last month, the Syrian government announced that Syrian traders who priced goods in foreign currency would face up to 10 years in jail, in a move aimed at stemming the increasing dollarisation of an economy crippled by two years of civil war.

Before protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, the Syrian pound stood at 47 to the dollar. After two years of war and economic collapse, it now changes hands for around 130, and has fallen as low as 300, exchange dealers say.