Damascus, the Monopoly game and the international sanctions

Counterfeiting a devaluated currency that almost nobody wants seems to be a strange idea. But there is someone who must be gaining from this, although it is certainly not the average Syrian banker.

Europe is preparing to adopt a new round of sanctions to limit the Syrian regime’s options. In addition to the ban on further oil investments (those already in place being not threatened), the Central Bank of Syria is no longer capable of printing banknotes or minting coins, because these were manufactured in Europe.


No more international money transfers

Europe can easily implement this last sanction, as the printing presses capable of printing banknotes accepted as legal tender are in Austria, Germany and Belgium.

The rest of the Western countries seem determined to follow the movement. An expatriate living in Syria reported that he had met a man wanting to transfer money to his son in Canada. « Don’t even think about it » was the answer he got from banks and other agencies that carry out international transfers. Syrian Pounds stay in Syria. The only option left is to change the Pound into foreign currency in Syria, which does not seem to be a problem as long as it is the real Syrian Pound. But for the fake and poorly imitated banknotes, absolutely no foreign currency can be obtained from them. They have no value.


Back to the Future

Importation of foreign cars has also been halted recently. « It does not matter » say the importers who trade their regular contracts and suits for the smuggling business: « These guys will work the way they were doing 10 years ago, and the merchandise will come through Lebanon… » Is Syria returning to Hafez’s protectionist period? Nobody seems to care because people know how to deal with this.

But life in a country where the unemployment rate is estimated at 20% is not that easy for everyone. Additionallly, the tourist season has been catastrophic… Not really the best summer to go eating fresh fish in Latakia, is it?

As a result, the cash is becoming rare. The solution? Let’s print some more, even if it does not look exactly as it should! Things are that « simple » in Syria.

Who gains from turning the Syrian Pound into « Monopoly » game money (see below pictures)? Let us examine a few possibilities.

Big corporations?

The big Syrian companies – including state-controlled ones – are cutting jobs. Syriatel, for example, had massive lay offs: 250 people lost their jobs recently. Additionally, a major hotel chain whose establishments are desperately empty also cut 300 jobs.

So when the international trade is frozen, when the currency is stopped at the border and when there is an oil embargo, it becomes hard to find cash to pay staff and charges.

This explanation can partly justify the introduction of the fake currency, at least when the companies are strongly linked with the state.



What is our favourite man with the moustache up to this time?

How much does it cost to maintain an army of 60,000 men during six months? Soldiers eat, drink, need medical care, they need weapons and ammunition, they need vehicles, helmets, and their pretty uniforms must be renewed often because blood leaves stains… This becomes quite expensive after a while, right?

And this is without taking into account the Shabeeha, the Mukhabarat who makes up two thirds of the Syrian population, all the administrative staff who need to be paid, eggs to be thrown at ambassies , doctors in public hospitals who may be a bit overloaded these days. All their medicines, bandages, dressings, etc. cost a lot.

Well, finally, a civil war is a costly affair.

The one on the left is authentic; the one on the right is a forgery. Note that the "500" on the real one is only visible in three corners, whereas it appears on the four corners on the fake one.

Recently, banks have raised the mortgage to 15% to stay afloat. It becomes increasingly difficult to pay, especially if the owner, the average Syrian, has certainly lost his job. He will soon lose his house as well, sold for breadcrumbs, which will be the new hard currency in Syria.

Among others, food prices have also increased. Soon we will see a new wave of demonstrators: the ones who are already hungry, will have lost all their remaining belongings in one or two months. At that time, it will no longer be « only » 40% of the population, as Bashar al-Assad says on state television, who will be in the street. The entire hungry country will take to the streets and this time they will come to stay, with nothing more to lose than their lives.

Oops, sorry, I’m being nasty now!

Today, Bashar is preparing himself not only to fight demonstrators, but also to simply pay salaries and bills with this new money that has just appeared.

It seems that poor people can simply be bougth.

I feel like fake banknotes printing presses will fire up again soon…

This is a crowdsourced translation of the original article published in French.

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