Population – 16.5 million, with an annual rate of increase of 3.4 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – £Syr 591,900 million in 1995, at current prices. No precise dollar equivalent can be made, because different exchange rates apply to various categories of transactions.

Economists suggest $14,000 million is a realistic estimate, indicating per capita income of about $850 a year. Agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of GDP, followed by mining and manufacturing, at 14 per cent.

Growth – Official figures put real GDP growth at 5.5 per cent in 1994, 4 per cent in 1993, 10 per cent in 1992, 7 per cent in 1991, 7.6 per cent in 1990 and minus 8.7 per cent in 1989. Economists say real growth was about 4 per cent in 1995.

Inflation – estimated at 10-15 per cent Current account – This recorded deficits of just over $600 million in both 1993 and 1994, after four years of surpluses, peaking at $1,762 million in 1990. Exports have been steady, between $3,100 million-4,000 million over the past five years. Oil accounts for about 60 per cent. Imports have risen steadily in the 1990s, mainly as a result of the lifting of restrictions on the private sector, reaching $4,570 million in 1994. Preliminary figures suggest imports were well over $5,000 million in 1995. Current transfers into Syria totalled just over $1,000 million in 1994, almost all private.

Tourism revenues are steadily increasing.

Debt – $20,557 million at the end of 1994, including $4,563 million in arrears. Some 70 per cent is classified as bilateral concessional, and most of this is owed to the former Soviet Union. Debt service payments in 1994 were just $398 million.

Sources:IMF, World Bank, Government of Syria * 1995, unless specified otherwise