Tourism, which possibly accounted for up to 18% of the entire economy, was the first to go. A year ago, sandal-clad and camera-wielding hordes of European tourists would shuffle through the cobble-stoned souk of Old Damascus, who patronized the businesses of cocky young Syrians, many of whom speak five languages to cater to the flow of foreigners. Now the tourist touts sit on small plastic stools and drink sweet tea in their shops full of dusty carpets and silver trinkets. “The Old City is still safe, but it’s empty,” one shopkeeper said as he tried to sell a box of old coins from Syria’s eastern deserts, a once-popular souvenir here.
The next economic support to go will be foreign investment. With dwindling oil reserves, the Syrian government has been betting on foreign investment to pay for more than half of all government spending over the coming years. Would-be investors are now waiting to see if the situation stabilizes or, increasingly, are simply taking their money elsewhere. A Qatar-based company recently scrapped plans for a $900 million project to build power plants here. “The prospects do not look good at all,” a leading Damascus economist said on condition of anonymity. “There is a deep sense that the crisis is ongoing and business is at a standstill.”
Worst of all, according to many in the Syrian business community, the government has backtracked on its liberalizing reforms in a last-ditch attempt to mollify the protesters, who complain of unemp… >>>