Damascus to abolish ration cards gradually

DAMASCUS, Syria (North Press) – The new ‘proposal’ by officials of the Syrian government to lift the subsidy for many categories ‘rich’ in a list named ‘categories excluded from subsidized goods on the ration card’ caused public  discontent and backlash in government-held areas.

Few people only applauded the ‘proposal’ whereas the majority of Syrian citizens say it violates the Syrian constitution which stipulates that all persons shall be equal before the law without discrimination.

Muhammad Samer al-Khalil, Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, submitted to other Syrian ministers a book listing large segment of society to be excluded from the subsidized goods on the ration card. 

The book, which followed a parliamentary meeting in early November, was lately leaked to the public.

“People who own vehicles style 2008, every family that has got two or more cars, workers in the embassies, consulate and international organizations” are the society segment determined to be excluded from the list.

“Arab and foreign companies that function in Syria, owners and investors of driving centers, the freelancers registered in state unions, lawyers and physics who have been practicing profession for more than ten years and pharmacy investors” are also excluded from the list.

Constitution violation

Amr Salem, Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, affirmed the book submitted by al-Khalil but after it raised outrage amongst the locals, he stated “the list is under study and no decision has been taken yet.”

He even went more and posted on his Facebook account that he is not going to exclude the low income people no matter what cars or houses they own.

In regard to people’s argument that “dividing the citizens in terms of subsidy violates the Syrian constitution,” Salem said “the item in the Syrian constitution that say all persons are equal before the law requests that the rich shall be excluded from the public treasure in charge of subsidy.”

Minimum salary

Shady Mirhej, 50, is a pseudonym for a businessman who resides in Damascus, stressed that the proposal is ‘unreasonable’ in the light of the deductions the government already takes from the people when it pays the lowest salaries in the world.

Describing the controversy on official social websites, Mirhej said “they assume Syria is in its old normal status as if the wages have not dropped below international poverty line.”  

“This explains that the government never subsidized the prices of basic provisions. It actually used to deduct from salaries and wages to pay for them,” he added.

Mirhej calculates that the government is to leave the people alone to their fate and abandon the slogans of socialism it used to raise.

Total lift of subsidies  

“There is a program to gradually lift government subsidy on provisions, and by the end of 2022, the government will totally lift the subsidized prices,” Qasem Zaytoun former banker said, adding, “This is a response to the recommendations of the World Bank.”  

However, Mirhej disagrees, claiming that such a stance is right when there is a real state, but now after the state turned to only a cover, “the situation is currently like a mafia to abandon the citizens.”

Lamia Assi, former Minister of Economy, said the government proposal needs accurate database, and the majority of the residents now need subsidized prices.

Firas Tlass, son of the former Syrian Defense Minister said “there might be an international consensus do that the Syrian government lift total and comprehensive subsidy.”

“The first step the government takes is to minimize the number of beneficiaries then the UN will send aids to them. After that, the government will lift total subsidy alleging that the segment of citizens who receive subsidized prices on provisions through the ration card are receiving international assistance,” Tlass illustrated.

In an interview with a local media outlet, the economic expert, Ammar Youssef described the lift of subsidy by the movement as “unprecedented invention” and “the subsidized prices is too little to be mentioned in the first place.”  

Youssef suggested that the government turns the subsidized provisions to cash and to give it to the residents and to increases state salaries so that the people can lead a decent life.

Reporting by Rita Ali