Syria’s reveals new budget with unusual priority

As a long winter of uncertainty and economic trouble looms, the Syrian government has passed a preliminary budget for 2023 that includes an increase in spending of 24 per cent.

The budget plan included a drop in flour and wheat subsidy allocations, which will have a significant impact on Syrians who are already struggling in their country’s crumbling economy. However, the decision to enable the relaxation of import restrictions on cosmetic surgery has sparked a firestorm of social media mockery and rumours in the country.

The Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade’s decision to remove limitations has been the talk of the town, although import permits for beauty products have been in high demand and are still difficult to get. Botox might not seem like the priority for a nation with sky-high inflation, a grave economic crisis, and a devastating cholera outbreak, but that is not the case in Syria.

After a rare statement from the economy ministry announced a lifting of limitations on the highly in-demand items, cosmetic surgery products became the topic of conversation in Syrian media circles. According to reports, this was done in response to the health industry’s and the doctors’ syndicate’s relentless demands for cosmetic surgery imports like Botox, which had previously been prohibited since they were thought to be of low priority for the general public in the current situation.

Many people are still sceptical, despite the government’s response that the compounds have further necessary uses in surgical procedures and some neurological illnesses. The perception of cosmetic surgery as a luxury that Syria’s struggling poor cannot afford will never change.

The budget, according to Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, primarily focuses on implementing financially viable initiatives that improve services and production while also having a direct positive impact on the national economy and economic and social growth.

The government noted that “around a billion dollars of the total subsidy budget go to the hydrocarbon sector of diesel, gasoline, gas and electricity, and about $500m for bread”.

The current $300 million subsidy for rice and sugar would also be retained, along with money for irrigation, support for agricultural production, and measures to lessen the consequences of drought and other natural calamities. As anticipated, there was no pay increase, and the majority of government employees continue to make 100,000 lira ($20) per month.

The majority of the country depends on Syria’s subsidies support programme since wages and income levels are so low, but spending has been dramatically reduced over the past two years by more than 40%, with reductions to flour and wheat subsidies that threatened this program’s core components.

According to reports, Syria’s budget for 2020 was $9 billion, demonstrating the drastic decrease in just two years, during which the economy has almost completely lost ground in terms of purchasing power. As the nation suffers from economic depression, sanctions, and the effects of conflict on infrastructure and services, the value of the Syrian lira has also plunged. 

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