Syria’s freshly released 2019 budget reveals a hefty planned hike in spending on ‘electricity, gas and water’ – nearly doubling budgeted spending to S£123.1bn ($230mn at the current rate of $1=S£540) from S£64.4bn for 2018 ($440mn). Despite an impressive recovery in gas output (and thus electricity generation) to nearly 600mn cfd, Syria still faces power shortages and badly needs capital expenditure to meet growing demand (MEES, 4 January).

The budget is certainly a step in the right direction with the energy and water sectors seeing the largest year-on-year increase of any. But as the venerable Syria Report points out, the bigger issue is whether Damascus can come anywhere near its budgeted targets, as it failed to do last year. This is largely down to unaccounted spending on debt repayment, energy and flour subsidies, and underspending on investment. The government in Damascus will have to vastly improve its track record to hit its stated spending goals. (CONTINUED - 154 WORDS)