(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN — Currency exchange shops noted an increase in the demand for the Syrian lira during the past week, with many attributing this trend to the recent opening of the Jaber/Nasir border crossing between Jordan and Syria.
The border was officially reopened on Monday, October 15, after three years of being shut down due to security concerns in the war-torn zone of southern Syria.
In a recent TV interview in October, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem said "the reopening of the Naseeb border crossing was a major event for the people of Syria and Jordan. Terrorists used to control [Syria's] border crossings and the countries that supported these groups wanted to keep the crossings closed.'
The border, with its 32 clearance firms, is now open for regular citizens wanting to visit Syria, as well as for merchants and business owners looking to renew their business relations.
'We have people coming in to exchange small amounts as little as JD50, and people exchanging JD5,000 and more,' said Ahmed Sarayrah, a worker at an exchange shop.
Another employee, Amr Naimi, said, 'there has been very little demand since the war, but the last two weeks have been eventful for the Syrian lira'.
Before the war, one Jordanian dinar would equal around 67 Syrian liras, according to currency converter's records of 2011. Now, one Jordanian dinar equals 726 Syrian liras, with inflation reaching 25.5 per cent.
According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the Syrian opposition's capture of the Jabir/Nasib border crossing cost the government $500-700 million a year.
However, with Jordan being the second main export partner after Lebanon, standing at an import rate of 11.6 per cent of Syrian exports, some economists predict that the opening will be beneficial to the Syrian lira.
'Syria needs to revive its economy, and Jordan is the perfect neighbour, especially that they share land borders. Syria doesn't have the resources to do much air or sea trade, so trucks and cars are the perfect transport medium for cargo right now,' said Syrian economist Tarek Ali, adding, 'I have high hopes for the lira in the next few months because of the unavoidable rise in its value that is bound to come from all this new demand on it'.
Nonetheless, with the CIA World Factbook stating that Syria's public debt rose to 60 per cent of its GDP, and with foreign reserves sinking from $18 billion to $1.5 billion, some economists remain skeptical of talk surrounding the rise of the lira.
'It's true that Syria is renewing its trade ties, but no one can deny the damage that the war has done. Syria is going to need at least double the period of the war, which is around 12 years, to get back on its feet,' said an economist, who preferred to remain unnamed.