Index / Economy /
In November 1995 Syria and many other Middle Eastern and North African countries signed an agreement with the European Union to create a Mediterranean free trade zone by 2010.
Syria is by many respects a poor country, and relies heavily on help from rich Arab states.
The Syrian state handles foreign exchange, in addition to basic and vital industries like the oil refineries, most electricity plants and the railways. Some industries like large textile factories and many flour mills have the Syrian state as its owner.
Private businesses dominate retail trade, although there are also consumer cooperatives in the larger cities. New laws allow private banks, but a private banking sector have not yet developed.
The Syrian trade union for industrial employees, the General Federation of Workers is a central player in the country's economy. Most other workers are organized in unions, but few play an equally strong role.
Syria's oil industry has been developed into becoming the country's most important natural resource. Syria' production is large enough to allow exports, and the income here is now larger than for any other commodity. The quick increase in production has resulted in fast depleting of the reserves. At the present rate the reserves will last until 2004.The government has encouraged the search for new oil fields along the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Syria also has a small output of natural gas.
Hydroelectric power represents 42% of Syria's generated electricty. The main provider here is the Euphrates Dam at Tabaqa. There are also small hydroelectric plants along the other river.
Syria also extracts raw phosphates, asphalt, limestone, basalt and some chrome and manganese.
Syrian agriculture produces much of the foodstuffs the country needs. 26% of the land is classified as arable, but large areas lie unused because of lack of water. In most cases is irrigation necessary, as most of the rain falls outside the growing season. The quality of the soil is threatened by insufficient use of fertilizers and not rotating of crops.
The main produce include wheat, barley, maize and millet; cotton; lentils, onions, potatoes and sugar beets; olives, grapes, apples, citrus fruits; and tobacco. Equally important is the breeding of livestock, including sheep, cattle, camels and poultry.
Syria's main export crops are wheat and barley, and cotton.
Fisheries are little developed, and boats are small or medium sized. Fish include sardines, tuan, groupers, tunny and red and gray mullet.
Syrian industries still include many handmade products which often turn out decorative objects, mainly sold to Syrians themselves, but also to foreign visitors. Syria has a large production of wool, cotton, nylon textiles and natural silk.
Modern industries play an increasingly important role, but are mainly involved in the production of simple products. The national industries are aided with high tariffs on imported goods.
Food-processing industries produce mainly for the domestic market.
Tourism has become more and more important to Syria, and the country receives many tourists coming here to explore the country' long history, not the least the Christian parts of it.
Modern Syria has well-developed road and railways systems. There are two sea ports, the ones of Latakia and Tartus.
There are two international airports, the ones of Damascus and Aleppo. National airports include Qamishle, Latakia, Deir ez-Zawr and Palmyra.