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Syria: Oil outweighs a green revolution

One reason why Syria feels that it does not need to move ahead as quickly with economic reforms as some other regional countries is that it still has plentiful natural resources. Agriculture, for example, accounts for about one-third of the economy, and has benefited from major efficiency gains over recent years.

Central Bank governor Bashar Kabbarah is especially effusive in highlighting the progress that has been made in agriculture, describing the accomplishments of the past 15 years as a "green revolution". He says: "Up until the middle of the 1980s we imported food, even wheat. Now, in spite of the increase in the population level, and in spite of the bad weather we've had in recent years, we have an excess of agricultural products. We have 70 million olive trees and we are now producing double the amount of olives and olive oils than we consume. Last year we produced 1.07 million tonnes of cotton and this year we expect to produce even more. And in terms of wheat productivity, we are second only to Australia measured by yield per hectare."

These are impressive statistics, but 70 million olive trees are hardly going to be a linchpin of export earnings or job creation.

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