ECONOMY: INDUSTRIES AND MINERAL RESOURCES
Syria is not particularly endowed with mineral resources; compared to the enormous production of other Arab countries, the quantities of oil extracted in north-eastern Syria certainly cannot be considered high, however they represent the main source for internal consumption. For the rest, there are only modest deposits of asphalt, phosphates, rock salt and natural gas. A 650 km long oil pipeline is in operation, bringing crude oil to the Homs refinery and from there to the port of Tartūs; the country is also crossed by two oil pipelines: one comes from Karkūk (Iraq) and is directed to the aforementioned Homs refinery, where it forks into the Homs-Banias and Homs-Tripoli (Lebanon) trunks, the other, much shorter, cuts the extreme southwestern section of Syria coming from Saudi Arabia and brings the crude oil to Saida, Lebanon (both of these pipelines, however, have been periodically interrupted due to the Lebanese conflict and the war in Iraq). The production of electricity is modest, even if significantly increased; once essentially of thermal origin, it is today, thanks to the construction of various hydroelectric plants, also of water origin. However, the Thawrah plant is unable, as expected at the time of its construction, to meet the internal needs. A new power plant located near Dayr az-Zawr should meet part of the country’s needs; other projects, also relating to the exploitation of wind energy, are under discussion. Industrial development is closely related to the increase in energy production. Although the huge military expenditures have long put a strong brake on productive investments, Syria continues its intent to consolidate industrial structures. The most developed sectors naturally concern the processing of national products; the textile industry, especially the cotton industry and, in second place, the wool industry, with main plants in Damascus and Aleppo and the agri-food industry, with milling complexes, oil mills, sugar refineries, breweries, tobacco factories, mineral water bottling plants present both in the populous western districts and inland, in the inner districts, at Ar-Raqqah and Dayr az-Zawr; there are also cement factories, tanneries, chemical plants for the production of fertilizers, caustic soda and acids (sulfuric, hydrochloric and phosphoric), mechanics (who build tractors, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions), iron and steel (cast iron and steel), in addition to cited Homs refinery and Banias refinery. Between 2006 and 2007, the Gbeibe refinery in the Northeast was inaugurated.
ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMUNICATIONS AND TOURISM
The trade is quite lively; Syria mainly exports oil and derivatives; followed, at a great distance, by livestock (goats and sheep), cotton and fruit and vegetables (in particular olive oil), while imports are essentially made up of machinery and industrial products. Trade takes place mainly with various European countries (France, Italy, Ukraine), Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China and South Korea (the latter two for imports) but exports are still lower than imports. Syria has been a transit country since ancient times and many of the current roads are based on the routes of the old caravans. The communication routes have been developed through government programs, aimed at strengthening both the road and rail networks. This the latter is in any case lacking, developing for about 2700 km; the main trunk connects Aleppo with Homs and Damascus; various branches branch off from it and connect with the lines of neighboring countries: Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The road network is around 94,200 km and allows you to reach all the major centers in the area quite easily. Maritime services refer to the port of Latakia, followed by the eminently oil port of Banias, as well as the ports of Tartūs and Jableh; also in this case, state control, tariff rules and above all competition from neighboring countries make these ports not very competitive. Air communications are well represented, mainly from the international airports of Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia; the national airline is Syrian Arab Airlines. Tourism is of growing importance: the development potential provided by the wealth of archaeological assets and good infrastructures, however, still find limitations in the lack of accommodation facilities and more generally in political conditions. Most of the tourists come from Arab countries but Europeans are increasing. The first private banks were only admitted in the early 2000s; foreigners cannot hold majority stakes in banks and credit institutions (which can however only offer small loans).