Coronavirus Crushing Impact on Small Business

Over the past few weeks, as coronavirus has continued to spread globally impacting the health of millions around the world and leaving humanity in total uncertainty of the future, it also had a huge direct impact on the economy. 

Syria was no exception, the devastating global inflation impacted our country like any other, despite the fact that the spread of the coronavirus in Syria is still under control until now. However, the financial damage to the small businesses is everything but minimal. 

The imposed curfew, the partial lock-down, and the ban forced on many shops and services as a preventive procedure, in addition to the rapidly devaluation of Syrian currency has led to a volatile economy and resulted in shortage of life necessities for the majority of Syrians today.

Local businesses that have considerably no resources to draw from in a crisis like this, witnessed a sudden drop in customers, in addition to the economic sanctions that forbade trade for years and elevated the struggle severely.

If we take a quick look on our micro projects, we can instantly notice the dreadful reality which reflects the case of a whole society. With the start of the lock-down, shops (besides pharmacies and supermarkets) were completely banned from opening, just like public transportation, which means that the majority of our project owners had stopped working, and consequently couldn't provide for their families for approximately two months, meanwhile due to global economic and political reasons, the currency value was dropping very quickly making life nearly impossible for those who make day by day income.

Since approximately 53% of our projects were included in the closure ban, they had to close their shops completely for at least three weeks, then they were gradually allowed to open for two days a week, which was actually very helpful since they could not afford longer closure period being the providers for their families. 

Many other types of projects who either didn’t involve human interaction, or are home-based projects were able to keep working, however the general expensiveness of life caught up to them eventually. 

The people who were least affected are the taxi owners and the food industry projects which consist the remaining 33% of the projects, of course they worked outside the curfew hours.

The major problem is that our community already suffers from the economic implications of a 9 years old war, 40% of our projects in total have once lost their livelihoods due to war, and experiencing a second economic hit would destroy their ability to recover.

Many of the beneficiaries earn small profits and depend mostly on quantity of sales to make a decent living, which is impossible to cover the expenses and bring livelihood income when they are opening only 6 hours a week. Others find themselves contending with the duality of taking care of their children, some actually are expecting babies in these uncertain times, or have a health condition within the family that costs a fortune for medication. 

The catastrophic financial situation of the families may be more clear if we knew that the average income of an employee is only 20$, for a business owner it would be an average of 60$ (surveyed from the micro projects program). However, this amount that can’t cover more than electricity bills, milk and diapers (if they have an infant or child) which in total costs around 25$. Unfortunately this gap between the income and expense widens with the instability of the currency value against the increasing US dollar exchange rate. 

Despite the high levels of concerns, our forward-looking expectations must be full of hope specially that the spread of the coronavirus in Syria is still minimal, we may have a chance to survive this crisis only if we consciously take responsibility of supporting our community to overcome this difficult time.