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Central Bank Governor, Assad's Fresh Scapegoat

Hazem Qarfoul (R)


Until Wednesday, Syria's central bank governor Hazem Qarfoul was praised by the state-run media as an intelligent problem solver able to manage the  recent Syrian pound crisis. 

However, by afternoon, soon after Bashar al-Assad issued a decree dismissing Qarfoul, the media’s discourse underwent a radical change, blaming him for all the socio-economic crises that the country has gone through since he held the post  since late 2018. 

All accusations were suddenly fingered toward Qarfoul for being behind the collapse of the pound, with loyalist newspapers rushing to point out his shortcomings and corruption, despite the known fact that he is a mere front and a puppet for the intelligence services who are the real decision makers.

The Assad regime excels in turning everyone against anyone who is no longer useful to it, effectively destroying their reputation and eliminating them indefinitely from the picture. Thus, Qarfoul found himself as one of these people among the likes of former Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and other official figures who fell from the regime’s grace since 2011.

“Economy Today” dedicated an article about Qarfoul’s most prominent decisions since 2019 that led to the collapse of the pound, from his refusal to pump dollars into the markets, to his reliance on the security solution including the restriction on exchange and remittance companies. It is clear from the detailed article about Qarfoul’s every decision that this file was planned against him a while ago by a party, most likely a security agency, as a means to his condemnation.

Athar Press news site resorted to the opinion of sought-after analyst Ammar Yousdef, who not long ago commended the Central Bank’s resourcefulness in dealing with the collapse of the pound.

“Since the appointment of former governor of the central bank, Qarfoul, we have witnessed a deterioration and collapse of the Syrian pound,” Youssed said, noting that as a result of his failed policies, everyone now is using the dollar, which caused large disparities and instability in the exchange rate.

The pound has been hit hard by the war, corruption, Western sanctions and more recently a financial and economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon. Syrians are believed to have billions of dollars blocked in Lebanese banks that have imposed harsh capital controls since late 2019.
 
Syria Steps news site published an article one hour after Qarfoul’s dismissal, explaining the reasons that led Assad to sack him, including his disastrous” management of the bank’s administration. 

The Syrian pound set a record in March trading on the black market at 4,600 pounds to one U.S. dollar before improving to 3,100. At the start of the conflict in mid-March 2011, the U.S. dollar was worth 47 Syrian pounds.
 
In an emergency move following the Qarfoul’s dismissal, the central bank  on Thursday has devalued the official price of the local currency.
 
The decision came after the Syrian pound crashed over the recent months in the war-torn country, hitting records low and throwing more Syrians into poverty.
 
The central bank said the official price of the dollar will be 2,512 pounds after it was fixed at 1,256 since June last year.
 
The average salary in Syria is about 90,000 pounds ($29) per month making it difficult for many Syrians to survive.
 
The United Nations estimates that nearly 80% of Syrians live under the poverty line. In recent months, fuel and wheat have been in short supply, driving the government to reduce subsidies and ration resources.

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