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Former minister criticizes regime's govt decision to rise petrol prices

Amr Salem, former Minister of Internal Trade, criticized Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous’s speech before the People’s Assembly, in which he said that “the steps taken by the government with regard to reducing the budget deficit by reducing the value of subsidies on oil derivatives have been subject to in-depth and lengthy studies.”

Salem, via Facebook, accused the Prime Minister of not knowing the nature of those studies that were conducted, stressing that the amount of raising the price of petroleum derivatives and the amount of the budget deficit it reduces had been studied, and the annual amount resulting from raising salaries and wages had also been calculated.

  But what must be known, avoided and fixed is that these numbers were calculated, but were not studied at all, he said.

The former minister explained that the first thing that must be studied is the impact of this increase on local and imported goods and products, and private and government services.

Therefore, when prices for oil derivatives are raised, the rate of entry of oil derivatives into every service, commodity, and product and the series of increases resulting from this increase must be studied. This study is one of the tasks of the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection.

Salem added that all of this was not done in the recent decisions. Therefore, it is true that the block of raising salaries and wages in addition to increasing agricultural support equals the savings obtained from raising the prices of oil derivatives, but the series of price increases was like dominoes and affected all aspects of life and was much, much greater than the savings achieved. And from any increase in the mass of salaries and wages.

Salem revealed that before each previous raise, the Ministry of Internal Trade was studying its impact on prices, submitting its official memorandum to the Economic Committee, and concluding it with a proposal regarding whether or not to raise it.

  But the decision is based on the recommendation of the Economic Committee and the decision of the Council of Ministers, and when the decision is issued, the Ministry of Internal Trade adopts it, whether it is for it or against it, because it is a legal obligation to adhere to the decisions of the Council of Ministers together, according to what he said.

Regarding the distribution of support to those who deserve it, Salem commented: “The support is not limited to rice, sugar, and oil derivatives, but rather extends to electricity, water, health, and post-basic education, and this amounts to tens of trillions of Syrian pounds, and this support in its old form cannot be tolerated by the state as it is, in addition to "It opens a wide door to corruption and waste at all its stages."

Salem noted that any good or service sold at two prices will inevitably lead to theft, corruption, and the black market. International figures show that subsidizing the good and service causes the loss of no less than 56 percent of the support mass.

The former minister confirmed that he had previously proposed completely abolishing support for goods and services and replacing them with cash value paid electronically to help those who need support secure their life’s requirements of housing, medicine, food, education, heating, clothing, transportation, and agriculture, but “it was not convincing to the Economic Committee and was not presented to the Council of Ministers.”

The regime's Prime Minister delivered a speech at the opening of the tenth regular session of the People's Assembly last Sunday, in which he confirmed that the deficit in the trade balance reached one billion and 641 million euros from the beginning of this year until last August.

Arnous also justified the government's resort to raising the prices of oil derivatives in the middle of last month, by saying that it aims to reduce the deficit in the trade balance and control the bleeding in hard currencies.

Syria’s economy has been struggling after years of conflict, corruption and mismanagement, and Western-led sanctions over accusations of government involvement in war crimes and the illicit narcotics trade. The U.N. estimates that about 90% of the population lives in poverty, according to the AP. 

The Syrian pound’s value against the U.S. dollar declined to an all-time low of 15,000 pounds to the dollar in August. At the start of the conflict in 2011, the dollar was trading at 47 pounds.

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