Syria/ 6. Financing of culture  

6.1 Short overview

In the year 2005, the Syrian government adopted the Baath Socialist Party decision (which used to be a leading party in the State and Society before 2012) to shift from the planned economy to the market economy in supply and demand, in addition to liberalization towards the global market, and attraction of international capitals to support the Country development.

The 10th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010) is considered a founding period for transition to the social market economy which represents the application of the supply and demand rules in the Syrian market and liberalization of economy, along with constructing of the so-called “the social security network” to soften the negative effects of the market economy.

The State anticipated the economic restructuring, creating changes in the overall economic policies, and achieving the planned growth rate which was decided to be achieved along two consecutive plans till the year 2015.

The figures of the 10th Five-Year Plan, which reflects a development vision, point out to a persistent increase in the amount of public expenditure to provide the public services (education, health, culture, etc).

The total Government Budget Appropriation of funds increased in 2009 compared with 2008 by 85 billion SYP the total Appropriation of funds reached 685 billion SYP against 600 billion SYP in 2008, i.e. a 13.3% increase. 410 billion SYP have been allocated for current expenditures and 275 billion SYP for investment expenditures, i.e. an increase of 10.81% for current and 19.56% for investment operations (USD 1 = SYP 47). The budget volume for the year 2010 reached 475 billion SYP (10 billion USD) with an increase of 7.10% compared with the budget of the year 2009. The Appropriation of funds of current expenditure increased by 4%, while the Appropriation of funds of investment expenditure increased by 19%, therefore the budget of 2010 would  have become the last budget for the years of the Tenth Five – Year Plan. On the other hand, the 2011 budget reached 835 billion SYP (17.7 billion USD) with an increase of about 12% compared with the year 2010. We are witnessing an unfamiliar jump in the 2012 budget to have become the highest in the history of Syria and its total amount 1320 billion SYP which is an increase of a half a trillion Syrian pounds compared with the budget of 2011. Some of the budget was set aside for investment expenditure by 3.28% and for current expenditure by 7.71% and it included 386 billion SYP set aside for social support by 1.29% of the total budget. It provoked, with its different numbers and ratios, opposing reactions and some researchers and academics expressed their worries that the increase would be fixed through insufficiently financing (inflation) which would negatively reflect on prices. The economic advisor, Ziyad Aresh, proclaimed that" there is a part of the investment budget whose resources are from foreign pieces, so where will we get the pieces from, and what is the government betting on, if it was betting on increasing the transfers of Syrians overseas, indicators show that they’re decreasing[1]. Recently, the Syrian government issued the general budget of the financial year 2013 with an overall amount of 1383 SYP billion (20.0 billion USD) and an increase of 4 % compared with the year 2012.

By the end of 2013 the total general debt had reached 126% of the GDP and reliance increased on foreign borrowing, particularly from Iran. Law No. 25 of 2013 specified the budget for 2014, the fourth year of the Syrian crisis, with a slight increase from 2013 to reach 1.4 trillion Syrian pounds. As a result of the collapse of the Syrian pound against the US dollar, the 2014 budget  - equal to USD 9.26 billion-   allocated approximately 44% to support spending on fuel, electricity, bread, rice, sugar.  The equivalent allocation in  the 2013 budget was 37%.

The Syrian government announced that it had monitored USD 250 million in the reconstruction budget, and that according to the law the budget must parallel the value of expenditure allocations. However, the government did not specify the value of imports or deficit. The decline of Syrian expatriates’ remittances from abroad, the decline of agricultural and industrial sectors, and the decline in fuel and tourism sectors (which are the main sectors for the Syrian government’s resources)  returns have been almost non-existent since 2011. At the time of writing, the State’s resources are limited to taxes collected from areas controlled by the regime.[2] In October 2014 the Syrian government issued the decision on the 2014 budget law and the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported the statement made by the Minister of Finance during the Cabinet’s press conference stating that “the numbers of the general state budget project for 2015 have reached to 1144 billion Syrian pounds for spending, an increase by 134 billion from this year, and 410 billion for investment spending, that is a 30 billion increase from 2014.”  

An official report unveiled that the inflation ratio in Syria increased by 1% in 2010 and that the majority of food basket components contributed to lifting the inflation ratio, while the contribution of advertisement and culture was discouraging to the inflation by a small ratio. In 2011, the inflation ratio increased by 1.47% which was caused by the majority of food basket components, while the contribution of cultural advertisement lowered the inflation ratio by 0.07%. The Central Bank of Syria stated that the inflation in 2012 reached 30.77% which means that it increased by 28.3%.The Central Bank’s response to this increase was that all of the food basket components contributed to this increase, including culture and advertisement by 0.23% and education by 0.18%.

Statistics have revealed that the rate of inflation between 2012 and 2013 reached around 90%;it was 37% between 2011 and 2012. This inflation goes back to the major rise goods prices, some of which have risen by 150.

Percentage of the Government contribution to the budget allocated for culture

Syria was considered (before the uprising in 2011) a developing country; the state is responsible of making the necessary re-structural changes to achieve comprehensive development. Therefore State expenditure on culture (especially on basic cultural services and necessary infrastructure) is a major indicator of the level of the in-process culture development.

The investment plan of 2009 was set in the light of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) in terms of:


  • The optimal employment of resources to achieve sustainable development.

  • Investment in the social and environmental capital.

  • Investment in human resources through investment in all stages of education, public health and providing appropriate housing conditions.


The total Appropriation of funds of State budget (GDB) for 2009 amounted to 685 billion SYP with a share of 2,135 K SYP to the Ministry of Culture (MOC) broken down as follows:

  • 1,555 investment

  • 580 current

This means that the ratio of expenditure for the MOC to the State budget in 2009 was 0.3%, i.e. similar to ratios of previous years as shown in the following table:

Ratio of expenditure on other ministries compared with the expenditure on the MOC of the State budget












Higher Education















Social Affairs and Labor










Source: Central Bureau of Statistics

Despite the increase in MOC funds in comparison with the funds of the previous years due to the increased State budget, the MOC has expanded its activities by setting up activities in all governorates of the country, beyond its planned budgets, such as: (foundation of the Youth Theater Festival, launching the cultural newspaper “Shurufat”). The Ministry received, out-budget, subsidy to cover the costs of the “Youth Theater Festival” from the prime minister. Also, the Syrian Orchestra for Arab Music was founded by creative amateurs who are not employed by the Ministry, this activity has nothing in the budget, and the same with Aleppo Music Band (Qadry Dalal Band). Inana Band, Mary Woman Music Band, Al-Ojaily Band for Folk Arts in Raqqah, have been affiliated to the Ministry. And recently, Mahmoud Al-Ajjan Music Band in Latakia and the Arab Music Band in Hama were founded.

Knowing that foundation of these activities has been added to the budget of the Ministry (there is a small margin to receive subsidy from the prime minister for unforeseen and casual activities).

An amount of 100 million SYP has been added to MOC approbation in 2008 to cover the Ministry activities addressed for “Damascus: Capital of Arab Culture 2008”. (Note: a special committee for Damascus Capital of Arab Culture named –Secretariat General- has formed reports and sent them directly to the Prime Minister, worked independently from the MOC, on organizing the activities of Damascus Capital of Arab Culture with a separate huge budget).

Also, an additional Appropriation of funds has been added in 2009 to the MOC budget to cover the activities to be held in Syria under the banner of “Alquds, Capital of Arab Culture-2009” with an amount of 50 million SYP.

It’s worth mentioning here, the policy that was adopted by Damascus Opera House and which was considered then (2009) a curve in the House policies for partially or fully supporting private theater bands in the stage of musical bands later which is according to the academic background (musical play) of the House administration. However, the new policy of the House was not clear in the level of planning and strategies.

At the time of writing we have been unable to find clear numbers on the Ministry of Culture’s allocations from the Syrian budget. Attention mostly lies in sectors of Health and Agriculture. On 23 July 2013 during a meeting of the High Commission for Economic Planning concerning  the adoption of the state budget for 2014, the Prime Minister called on the Ministry of Culture regarding the need to take necessary measures to control spending, and the necessity to activate cultural centers in the face of conspiracy. At the same time the Prime Minister has increased the Ministry of Information’s allocated funds in order to launch new satellite news channels, and to produce cinematic and dramatic works that touch on reality. In the 2014 budget the Ministry of Information was allocated 2.22 billion Syrian pounds from the total budget of 1.39 trillion. The Ministry of Culture’s investment plan for 2014 reached 337 million Syrian pounds, or the equivalent of approximately 2 million US dollars. 

Household expenditure on cultural goods and activities

The composition of consumer price basket done by Central Bank of Syria recently in 2009 indicates that Syrian Household expenditure on culture is 1.7% from its monthly income, making it from the least goods and services spending. Also Syrian Household spends 0.97% on education and 5% on all types of communication such like land phones, mobile, and internet.

While the food expenses come first in the Syrian Household with share 42% followed by residence rental 16% then clothes 9%.

(The total average for Syrian Household expenditure adopted in the study is 25,000 SYP).

In 2014, after nearly four years of political crisis in Syria, it is noticeable that private cultural activities are almost non-existent, and most official governmental cultural activity free. The rate of poverty in Syrian society has increased and there are no studies nor private or public statistics on household spending on cultural activities and products. 

[1] Ath-thawra Newspaper- 9/10/2011

[2] According to a number of Syrian economic websites

Chapter published: 06-05-2016