top of page
Methodology and Motivation
Official and Black Market Exchange Rates in Syria

Syria’s monetary policy has gone through multiple phases since the 2011 conflict.

While the Central Bank of Syria (CBS) in Damascus has long relied on multiple exchange rates, the picture became far more complex after the economic meltdown that accelerated in 2019.

Since then, numerous exchange rates have been in effect, each applying to certain types of transactions with the aim of maximizing the Bank’s access to hard currency. One of the exchange rates applies to humanitarian implementers, who came to play a pivotal role in the economy as state institutions and the private sector failed to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

Chief among these humanitarian implementers is the United Nations, which administers a multi-billion dollar response in the country, often exceeding all public revenues combined. The rate imposed on the UN has mostly, but not always, been identical to the rate imposed on bank transfers. In August 2023, however, the CBS introduced the “Official Market Rate,” which now applies to two earlier CBS exchange rates (merging and renaming) as well as UN transfers.

The multiplicity of exchange rates, with their changing names and applications, have caused much confusion. To help researchers, policymakers, and the public, I devised this interactive tool with the support of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The tool tracks the various exchange rates in effect by the Central Bank at any point in time since 2011. It also plots the average black market exchange rate, which I have been tracking since January 2021, and the rate applicable to the UN as listed on their website. The interactive tool automatically updates once every hour to reflect a timely picture.

The tool works by scraping the websites of the CBS, the UN, and multiple providers of black market exchange rates once every hour. The data is then stored on Google Cloud and queried by the interactive tool using an in-house API.

bottom of page