Syrian President Bashar al-Asad last week announced a cabinet reshuffle involving the replacement of seven ministers, including those of finance and petroleum, in a move intended to show that “business is as usual.” However, given that Syria is in the middle of a civil war in which more than 60,000 people have been killed and infrastructure has sustained significant damage, the appointments are unlikely to make much difference in a country described by some analysts and politicians as a “failed state.”

The Syrian economy faces serious problems, according to a preliminary report by Syrian experts submitted to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and quoted in al-Hayat of 1 February. GDP has shrunk by 35% and is expected to fall annually by about 18%. Experts suggest that Syria will need $45bn for reconstruction once the political crisis ends. Unemployment could rise to 60% if the crisis continues until 2015. The report estimates macroeconomic losses until the end of 2012 at $24.1bn, concentrated in four sectors – internal trade, transport, manufacturing, and extractive industries. The petroleum sector’s loss is very high, with crude oil production falling by 47% after the imposition of sanctions and the exit of foreign companies in October 2011. (CONTINUED - 762 WORDS)