“Al-Julani” and Salvation Government meeting outcome | Fixing new prices for bread packs and reducing weight
Promises of the Salvation Government and leader of HTS, Al-Julani, concerning bread prices for the population in Idlib have not been fulfilled. They earlier promised to fix the prices of bread pack without linking it to the value of the Turkish lira. It is worth noting that value to Turkish lira declined recently; one US dollar equals 13 Turkish liras.
On the other hand, the Salvation Government reduced weight of pack of bread by 100 grams to 500 grams in the areas under its control and kept prices at three and half TL.
On Nov. 25, As the deteriorating economy and inflation in the areas controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the “Salvation Government” pose a threat to these two entities, with expectations of imminent popular uprising and starvation, the leader of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Abu Mohammed al-Julani, has met with senior officials of his government in order to announce about new procedures aiming to put an end to the ongoing increase in prices of essential products.
During the meeting, several promises and statements have been released regarding the “healing of the deteriorating living situation in Idlib, as attendees claimed, following the growing popular anger over the prohibitively high prices, especially of essential products, such as bread and fuel.
In a press conference held in Idlib on November 23, while meeting with members of “Shoura Council” (Consultative Assembly) to discus the bread crisis, al-Julani attempted to pacify the angry residents, as his most important statements included the following:
- “Al-Julani intended to set a budged of an estimated three million USD to subsidize bread in Idlib city and countryside.
- Bread would be sold at subsidized prices in 40 automated bread bakeries in Idlib.
- Procedures would be adopted to put an end to the crisis and to set price and weight of bread packs unchanged.”
With a population exceeding four million people, the decision of subsidizing bread in only 40 automated bread bakeries in Idlib city and countryside worsens the crisis even more, especially since it does not include a large number of bread bakeries in region. Accordingly, these bakeries will suffer from considerable congestion, as almost all the residents will turn to these bakeries to get their bread, while bread merchants will also attempt to get large amounts of the subsidized bread to sell it at higher price. It is worth noting that the price of bread is affected by the unstable change in the value of the Turkish lira which the “Salvation Government” forced the region’s residents to deal in instead of the Syrian currency.
Al-Julani also illustrated that the economic development in the region came under a strategic plan he started to implement three years ago in order to overcome the “food security” dilemma. The HTS leader also stated that the first step of this plan aimed to support schools and universities, so that educated human factor which has been a vital element in the region’s development would be secured. While the second step aimed to prepare infrastructure for more projects. The third step of al-Julani strategy aimed to put an end to the unemployment and secure job opportunities by establishing projects, as he claimed.
“As there was a current crisis, I rearranged priorities I have planned in order to overcome the bread crisis,” al-Julani stated.
Moreover, al-Julani stressed that every official must have not abandoned his responsibilities regarding the current economic hardship.
Al-Julani’s statements came a few days after a popular discontent following the considerable increase in food prices and decrease in the weight of bread packs from one kilogram to 450 gram in nearly six months. Social media activists have launched a campaign against the decision of decreasing the weight of bread packs, were tens of activists in Idlib city and countryside demanded the increase of the weight of bread packs.
Only one day after al-Julani statements, the economy ministry of the “Salvation Government” set the subsidized price of a seven-loaf bread pack of 600 gram at 2.5 TL, while the non-subsidized price of bread pack of 600 gram was set at 3.5 TL. The Salvation Government has entrusted the “General Association for Trade and Manufacturing Grains” to monitor the implementation of the decision which came into force today, November 25.
Al-Julani’s speech was followed by various reactions by the pro-HTS, who welcomed that decision and saw it a workable solution for the bread crisis, and by oppositionists who saw the decision was just an attempt to hush the residents criticizing HTS practices. Some others accused Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham that “it subsidized bread bakeries owned by its affiliates”, and they rejected the subsidization of specific bakeries which would lead to congestion in these bakeries.
The subsidization allocated by al-Julani to solve bread crisis in Idlib was just a small share of income of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the “Salvation Government” which dominate over all economic resources in the region. HTS imposes control of all crossings between areas under its control on one hand, and regime-controlled areas and areas under the control of Turkish-backed factions on the other, as well as the border with Turkey, Bab al-Hawa. These crossings generate tens of thousands of USD daily due to the taxes and levies imposed on the commercial movement. In addition, HTS imposes taxes of nearly 15 percent of the income of humanitarian organizations operating in areas under its control, and other taxes on civilians, including shop owners and farmers.
One of the most prominent investment projects affiliated to Hayyaat Tharir al-Sham in north west Syria is “Watad Petroleum company” which stockpiles fuel across HTS-held areas. The company has raised the price of gas cylinder to 157.5 TL a few hours after al-Julni’s speech. A gas cylinder had been sold at 122.5 only a week ago. According to the company’s new prices, the price of petrol was increased to 11.32 TL per litre, while price of imported oil was increased to 10.54 TL per litre. Furthermore, HTS prevents the entry of cheap fuels to areas under its control from areas controlled by Turkish-backed factions in Aleppo and imposes large taxes on the primitively refined oil brought in to Idlib.