Source: The Guardian – by Sam Jones (War could cost Syria nearly £1tn in lost economic growth by 2020, study warns)
World Vision report says reconstruction strategy vital for when war ends to avoid failures in Afghanistan and Iraq
War could cost Syria almost £1tn in lost economic growth by 2020, according to a report that urges the UK government to ensure an international plan is in place to help reconstruct the shattered country as soon as the conflict ends.
The study, from the international children’s charity World Vision and the consultancy firm Frontier Economics, estimates the war – which will enter its sixth year next week – is costing Syria £3.2bn a month in lost growth.
It says even if the fighting were to end this year, the economic fallout is still likely to reach £485bn, with the figure rising to £915bn if the fighting continues for another five years.
The report warns that without an internationally agreed reconstruction strategy ready when the war is over, the world risks repeating the post-conflict planning failures that have dogged similar efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
World Vision said that although the Syrian crisis has killed more than 250,000 people, according to UN figures, and affected the lives of more than 8 million children, its economic consequences were in danger of being overlooked.
The report analyses how the destruction of productive capacity, the disruption of investments, and the diversion of public spending to military and security budgets have wrecked the Syrian economy.
It chronicles the chaos wrought on Syria’s schools, hospitals and infrastructure: estimated life expectancy at birth has dropped by 15 years during the conflict; attacks on hospitals have left only 43% functional, and half of Syria’s doctors have fled the country.
“Financial loss translates into human loss: lost education; lost health; lost jobs, and lost opportunities,” said Tim Pilkington, chief executive of World Vision UK.
“The costs of the conflict are staggering. Unless we act now, this war won’t just affect a generation of children, but their children’s children.”
Pilkington said the world simply could not wait until the war was over to start planning for their future.
“We must prepare the ground for peace now,” he said. “The longer it takes to rebuild Syria, the greater the challenge and the higher the costs. The world must not repeat the postwar planning failures made in recent conflicts.”
World Vision praised the UK for leading the international community’s humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, adding that it would be a “natural step” for the country to show similar leadership when it came to producing a “historic restoration plan”.
The UK is the second biggest bilateral donor to the region behind the US. Itrecently pledged to double funding to the crisis to more than £2.3bn by 2020 to fund education, jobs and humanitarian protection in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The British government is understood to favour a UN-led reconstruction effort, but has said it is willing to contribute at least another £1bn to the costs of rebuilding Syria. Last November, the prime minister told parliament that the UK would “absolutely” be involved in “a proper post-conflict reconstruction effort to support a new Syrian government when they emerge”.
The report also stresses the regional consequences of the crisis, noting the “severe economic shock” the war has visited on the country’s neighbours.
Lebanon is estimated to have spent up to £700m on Syrian refugees between 2012 and 2014 – more than half of it on trying to cope with the increasing demand for electricity. The country, which now hosts more than 1 million Syrians fleeing the war, is also having to spend more trying to prop up its education system, and water and sanitation infrastructure.
Jordan, which is currently home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, has suffered an estimated 12% drop in its population’s living standards as a result of the war, while the World Bank says there was a 20% decline in health expenditure per capita in the first two years of the conflict.
Turkey, meanwhile, estimates that it had spent £3.2bn on hosting Syrian refugees by 2014. By the end of that year, Turkey had overtaken Pakistan to became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide: it currently has around 1.9 million refugees, 1.7 million of them Syrian.