Foreign aid lost in Syria due to exchange rate distortions

Currency manipulation is depriving Syrians, most of whom are poor after a decade of war, of much-needed money

A new study revealed that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used distorted exchange rates to convert

At least $100 million in international aid has gone into its coffers in the past two years.

Currency manipulation is depriving Syrians, most of whom are poor after a decade of war, of much-needed cash.

It also allows the Damascus government to circumvent sanctions imposed by Western countries that hold it responsible for most of the war's atrocities.

The report published this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization focused on international public opinion, stated that “Western countries,

Despite the punishment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has become one of the regime's largest sources of hard currency.” A political problem.

"Assad is not only benefiting from the crisis he has created," the report added. "He created a system that rewards him more whenever things go wrong."

The United Nations acknowledged Friday that exchange rate fluctuations have had a "relative effect" on the effectiveness of some UN programmes, particularly since the second half of 2019 when the Syrian currency weakened.

Francesco Galtieri, a senior UN official based in Damascus, said his office received the report on Thursday.

“We are reviewing it carefully, and also to discuss it publicly in the coming weeks with our donors, who are as concerned as we are about maximizing the impact of aid on the people of Syria,” said Galletiri, Team Leader of the British Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria.

The authors of the research published on Wednesday also said that the amount of aid lost and transferred to the coffers of the Syrian government as a result of the decline in the national currency is likely to be more than $100 million over the past two years.

The data they used to calculate the amount was limited to UN procurement and does not include aid provided through other international aid groups, salaries or cash assistance.

Sarah Kayali, Syria researcher for Human Rights Watch, described the findings as shocking and said donors can no longer ignore the fact that they are actively funding the Syrian government and its human rights abuses.

She said UN procurement processes do not meet due diligence standards, from a human rights perspective.

The Syrian pound has been hit hard by war, corruption, Western sanctions and, most recently, the financial and economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon.