No peace, no rebuilding for ‘broken’ Syria, say analysts

Syrian civilians search for survivors in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region. The seven-year war has cost the Syrian economy $226 billion and caused untold damage to the country’s infrastructure.

Rebuilding of Syria’s shattered economy and infrastructure “will not happen any time soon,” analysts have warned, saying a political solution is needed in the war-torn country before reconstruction can begin.

During a conference on Demystifying the Syrian Conflict at Chatham House on Monday, Jihad Yazigi, founder and editor of The Syria Report website, said: “There is no such thing as reconstruction (in Syria) today … and there are no expectations of it starting any time soon.”

“The state is broke.”

Speaking during a panel discussion on “regime area dynamics,” Yazigi said that 2017 was the first year since the start of the uprising that the Syrian economy has witnessed growth, but the country remains in “extremely bad shape.”

According to the World Bank, the seven-year war has cost the Syrian economy $226 billion and caused untold damage to the country’s infrastructure. More than 400,000 people have been killed and 27 percent of homes destroyed, along with an estimated 50 percent of medical and education facilities.

The cost of rebuilding will run into the hundreds of billions, with some estimates suggesting a figure of $1 trillion, but until a resolution is reached between the many warring parties, reconstruction remains on hold.

Foreign powers, including Russia and Iran, which have gained the upper hand through the regime’s victories, are among those angling for the spoils. Development plans from both countries, however, are more likely to prioritize a return on political and military support than meeting the pressing needs of Syria’s disenfranchised population.

Potential projects discussed include a railway line to transport phosphate from Syrian mines, which Russia has secured the rights to develop, while a loan of $1 billion from Iran to the Syrian government is being prepared on condition that it is used solely for the purchase of Iranian goods, the news website Syria Deeply claimed.

Sinan Hatahet, senior associate fellow at Al Sharq Forum and Omran for Strategic Studies, outlined the increasing influence of Russia and Iran, both on the Syrian state and on the ground through militias loyal to foreign forces. “The more it seems like the war is over, the harder it will get for the regime to manage this,” he said.

Emphasizing the challenges to Syrian stability posed by these key foreign allies, Yazigi said that balancing their competing demands would be a priority for the regime after the conflict ended.

“Another priority will be enabling regime cronies to capitalize … beyond these two priorities, I don’t see any other reconstruction strategies in Syria,” he said.

With hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed and more than half the country’s prewar population displaced by the conflict, there is an urgent need for new housing. But, instead, the government has announced plans for Basatin Al-Razi, a glitzy real estate project in Damascus, where thousands of families have been evicted to make way for high-rise condos, park boulevards and shopping malls — facilities that will cater to the tiny segment of the Syrian population able to afford them while lining the pockets of wealthy investors.