Syrian violence sees businesses flee
With the escalation of violence and no imminent resolution to the crisis, Syrian businessmen have started fleeing with their money and investing in other Arab countries, mainly the Gulf region and Egypt, the Anatolia News Agency reported.
Ahmed Ghannam, member of the Chamber of Industry in Damascus and a refugee in Egypt, said the Syrian economy has ground to a halt so they had to look for alternatives.
“They focused on short term projects that would yield fast profile whether through projects in Egypt or the stock markets of the Gulf countries,” he said.
According to Basil al-Kuwaifi, former head of the Chamber of Commerce in Damascus and member of the Syrian Transitional Council, there is a remarkable rise in the number of Syrian investors in Egypt especially in the field of industry.
“The Assad regime has been systematically destroying economic institutions and factories. It is now impossible to get raw materials or hire laborers and equally impossible to transfer manufactured goods from factories to warehouses and from warehouses to the market,” he said.
Kuwaifi, who is an aluminum investor in Egypt, explained that internal trade in Syria has stopped, so investors don’t get any profit.
“Even when those investors try to export their goods, no one will take them because foreign buyers are not sure Syrian investors will be able to meet their commitments under the current circumstances.”
Kuwaifi noted that a large portion of Syrian investors in Egypt work in Aluminum, textile, and food industries.
“Egypt hosts around 20% of Syrian investors. The rest go to Lebanon, Jordan and Gulf countries. Their businesses constitute 70% of the total investments inside Syria.”
Mohammed al-Sabagh, another Syrian businessman who lives in Egypt, said most Syrians settle in the western part of the capital Cairo, where he established his Syrian food restaurant.
“A large number of Syrians who fled to Egypt opened restaurants. Others work in furniture and dairy products.”
Sabagh said he preferred to open a restaurant owing to the popularity of Syrian food among Egyptians.
“The restaurant will also serve the rising number of Syrians in Cairo. They have increased by 100% after the Syrian revolution.”
Ahmed al-Wakil, head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the Egyptian Syrian Business Council, said the council, which is in charge of coordinating between Syrian and Egyptian businessmen, suspended its activities.
“This suspension was not done at the start of the Syrian revolution, but since the Egyptian revolution,” he said.
Wakil explained that following the Egyptian revolution and especially after the Syrian revolution all communication between Egyptian and Syrian businessmen was severed.
“The flow of economic information between the two sides also stopped.”
According to Wakil, Syrian investments in Egypt were estimated at 400 million US dollars in 2011.
“This was right before the Egyptian revolution, the last time accurate data was available.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced that the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt has reached 40,000.