Syrians will now have to pay to park in Damascus after deal
One Syrian company now controls 3,500 parking lots in the heart of Damascus, following a deal struck by the Assad regime and a mysterious firm, it was reported this week.
Cash-strapped Syrians will now have to pay as much as a day's salary to park their cars or vans in the capital, and will add a further financial strain for business owners and shoppers amid a suffocating financial crisis.
The contract with the Syrian regime is estimated to be worth 2.1 billion Syrian pounds and gives the unnamed company the right to control parking in Damascus for seven years. It is expected the business could make several billion pounds annually.
"Paid parking in this way will be financially stressful for workers in the area, including shop owners, offices and other workers," clothing store owner Abu Mamoun Taqi Al-Din told The New Arab’s sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
Ten years of conflict and international sanctions have put a heavy burden on the Syrian economy with Syrians struggling under the weight of high prices, an inflated local currency, and stagnant wages.
With the added expense of parking, prices in shops are expected to rise even further.
"As a small shop owner, I need a parking lot for my car all day, which means paying 6,000 pounds per day, or 156,000 per month. This amount is the same as the salary of state employees. I will have to add this cost onto the price of the goods that customers have to pay," explained Din.
Parking in Damascus has long been a source of exasperation for residents.
"Damascus may be one of the worst cities for urban planning… often people who visit the capital's centre after 10am find it very difficult to find a parking spot," one local worker told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
"It is our right as citizens to have car parks since we have offices, shops or homes in the region, and it is not our fault that the government did not have the foresight or awareness of the needs of the country."
When the plan was announced three months ago, the Director of Transportation and Traffic Engineering in Damascus, Yasser Al-Bastouni, claimed the plan to privatise parking was aimed at reducing traffic and not to attract new sources of funding.
The scheme would be aimed at "regulating the capacity of the streets, avoiding massive congestion and the increase in vehicles and mechanisms in the city, and preventing parking on the sidewalks".
The Syrian regime has been repeatedly accused of handing out lucrative government contracts to close supporters and friends of the Assad family.
Profits have been used to fund the regime's continuing war and secure private wealth and financial dominance for its supporters.