Cost of Syria’s war to blight future generations, charity says

 09 Mar 2016 - 0:00

Cost of Syria’s war to blight future generations, charity says
Children react as a Red Crescent convoy carrying humanitarian aid arrives in Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 23, 2016. AFP, AMER ALMOHIBANY

 

By Tom Esslemont

 

LONDON: The economic fallout from Syria’s war may be felt for generations because of the high number of children going without an education, an aid agency warned on Tuesday.

World Vision predicted the cost of recovery from the five-year conflict could spiral to almost $700 billion - close to the estimated total market value of U.S. tech giant Apple - even if it ended this year.

“The war in Syria has shattered the lives of over 8 million children. Unless we act now, this war won’t just affect a generation of children, but their children’s children,” said Tim Pilkington, Chief Executive of World Vision UK.

The United Nations says the conflict has left 2.8 million Syrian children out of school, more than a quarter of a million people dead and triggered an exodus of more than 4 million refugees.

The Syrian Centre for Policy Research estimates nearly 25 million years of schooling had been lost by the end of 2015, meaning a likely reduction in lifelong earnings, the report said.

Pilkington said rich governments needed to start thinking about Syria’s recovery now, to avoid their “post-war planning failures” after recent conflicts elsewhere.

STARK FINDINGS

World Vision analysed data from the World Bank, the United Nations and the Total Economy Database to estimate how much Syria’s economy would have grown had the country remained stable.

It found the cost of the conflict to date had swollen to $275 billion in lost growth alone. The growth rate had at times dipped to nearly 25 percent less than if war had not broken out, the report said.

Even if the war were to end this year, it would take at least 10-15 years for Syria’s gross domestic product per capita to recover to pre-conflict levels, the research found.

“This optimistic scenario would swell the total cost of the war to up to $689 billion,” the report said.

But World Vision said the expense would spiral to $1.3 trillion, roughly the same as Spain’s total annual GDP, if the war continued for another five years.

The war has also taken its toll on Syria’s neighbours, especially Lebanon and Jordan, whose exports to Syria have shrunk dramatically, the report said.

World Bank data showed that the direct cost to the Lebanese government of hosting Syrian refugees stood at just over $1 billion between 2012 and 2014, because of increased demand for electricity and public services like education, the report said.

The data showed that Jordan had seen a $0.9 billion rise in public spending between 2012 and 2013 due to the influx of refugees.

The impact of the conflict on Turkey’s economy was negligible or “moderately positive”, because the influx of refugees had also generated higher-wage jobs for Turkish workers, the report said.

But the lives of those displaced within Syria were feeling the greatest strain, World Vision UK’s boss said.

“With their homes, schools and hospitals bombed and their friends and families killed, many have been forced into appalling living conditions and abject poverty,” Pilkington said.

The report’s authors found that Syria’s oil revenues, which accounted for a quarter of all government revenue before the outbreak of war in 2011, had halved.

Meanwhile public debt relative to GDP had burgeoned to 126 percent in 2013 from 23 percent in 2010, the report said, quoting the Syrian Centre for Policy Research.

“Faced with their suffering, it’s hard to think in terms of cold economic costs,” Pilkington said. “But financial loss translates into human loss. We must prepare the ground for peace now.”

(Reporting By Tom Esslemont, editing by Tim Pearce)

Thomson Reuters Foundation