Political economy of the Syrian war: Patterns and causes
Amongst all the Arab countries that have witnessed social unrest over the past decade, Syria has emerged as a unique case. What started as a peaceful social effort to bring about overdue political reform turned into a bloody conflict. The 10 year-old civil war has largely devastated the Syrian economy and is likely to have lingering consequences on the country’s development for many years to come. This article deals with the political economy of the Syrian conflict. It argues that economic liberalization, poor public policies, and persistent drought in the years preceding the crisis, upset the social equilibrium and led to unrest. The very social class that used to support the once “socialist” regime in Damascus in the period 1963–2010 felt abandoned and betrayed by its economic policies. Indeed, the transition from a state-controlled economy into a free market economy, under Bashar al-Assad, may have served Syria in many ways, but it also created many problems. The ongoing conflict can be seen as a conflict about the distribution of power and wealth and, if Syria survives it as a united country, it will likely have a political, economic, and social equilibrium drastically different from the one it had.
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