Country Focus Data: Syria
June 01, 1998
by Mindy Dake
Located in the Middle East, Syria borders the Mediterranean Sea between Lebanon and Turkey. Syria's capital is Damascus.
Demography: Population 16.2 million, 3.3% growth rate (1997 estimate); Arabic, official language, English and French are widely understood; Sunni Muslim major religion group.
Geography: Mostly desert; narrow coastal plain in west with large desert plateau in the east.
Government: Republic. Hafiz al-Asad is president. Mahmud Zubi is prime minister.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform.
Economy: Recent economic liberalization measures have contributed to the revival of entrepreneurial activities in the private sector of Syria and to an increase in the gross domestic product of the country. In 1992, G.D.P. grew by 10%, and as recently as 1995, G.D.P. grew by 5.8%. Nonetheless, Syria's economy is slowed by a poorly performing public sector and relatively low industrial and agricultural production. The agricultural sector is responsible for employing 25% of the labor force in Syria. Unemployment, however, remains a problem as roughly 60% of the population is under the age of 20. G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$6,300 (1996 estimate), 5.2% real growth rate.
Currency: Syrian pound. Official exchange rate: 11.20 Syrian pounds per U.S. dollar.
Exports: U.S.$4.4 billion (f.o.b., 1996) petroleum, textiles, phosphates, fruits, cotton.
Imports: U.S.$5.2 billion (c.i.f., 1996) foodstuffs, metals, machinery, textiles, petroleum.
Major agricultural crops/products: Wheat, barley, sugar beets, cotton.
Wheat: Wheat production decreased to 3.2 million tonnes in 1997 from 4.25 million in 1996 as a result of severe frost. Total consumption, however, remained stable during this same time at 3.6 million tonnes. Five-year annual production averaged 3.7 million tonnes, and total domestic consumption averaged 3.5 million.
Barley: Five-year annual production averaged 1.5 million tonnes; exports, 504,400; and total domestic consumption, 929,000. Of total domestic consumption, roughly 70% is used as feed.
Transportation: Railroads, 1,998 km; 39,243 km of highways, with 27,862 km paved; 870 km of waterways; major ports are Latakia, Tartus.