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Economic Conditions in the Country and Arrival of Troops


Loosening cocoon fiber and winding on frames, silk mill, Beyrout, Syria, ca. 1913

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Local Industry Curtailed

The Syrian and Lebanese industries have always depended upon foreign countries for their supply of raw materials, machinery and fuel. The war considerably hampered the foreign trade of Syria and Lebanon. In order to ensure their distribution among the different industries needing them, the most important materials used in the   Syrian and Lebanese industry, such as cotton, silk, chemical goods, fuels, materials for construction, were put under a regime of controlled distribution. Those measures were of great help to the industrialists, but as the supply of materials available for distribution was relatively small, the productive capacity of Syria and Lebanon was greatly curtailed as a result.

Beirut. Unloading a vessel in the harbour.jpg

Beirut. Unloading a vessel in the harbour,[1920]

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


The difficulty of importing foreign products, the curtailment of local production and the large demand of the Army occupying the territory, have caused in the country relative shortage of the most important commodities. Measures had, therefore, to be taken in order to control the consumption of those goods and to insure their fair distribution among the population. A system of rationing was applied to the consumption of meat, confectioneries, wheat and other cereals suitable for bread making,  in order to restrict the consumption of meat and confectioneries, their sale was prohibited on certain days of the week. Fixed quantities of flour of cereals were distributed monthly to the population at reduced prices. From time to time a small quantity of sugar and rice was also distributed to the population by the Departments of supply at relatively low prices. The sale of sugar and rice was not monopolized by the authorities as in the case of wheat and other cereals suitable for bread making.


The vegetable Market Beirut ca. 1936.jpg

The vegetable Market Beirut ca. 1936

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


In order to maintain their armies, the French and British authorities have greatly inflated the Lebanon-Syrian currency.  The amount of banknotes in circulation has passed from 47,850,000 In December 1939 to 239,000,000 in October 1943.  This considerable inflation has caused a tremendous rise in the, price level and in the cost of living. According to official publications, the wholesale prices have risen about 7 times during the first four years of war, and the cost of living has advanced about 4 times. It is generally believed, however, that those official figures are too low since they include official prices which, in practice, are almost never applied in the market. It is estimated that the wholesale prices have increased 10 times and the cost of living a little more than 5 times.





French Troops in Beirut, ca. 1939

Evelyne Bustros Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

"Troops on the Middle East Stimulate the Market"

On December 10, 1939, the Arabic daily, “Beirut”, published the following financial report issued by the National Agency:

 “Reports from financial and commercial circles from various Arab countries indicate a condition of activity which did not previously exist. This is attributed to the presence of troops of the allies, who purchase provisions and employ laborers under favorable conditions. Official announcements of the Bank of Syria show that the circulation of bank notes has increased by about 5,500,000 Syrian pounds. Before the war (August 25) it amounted to 22,500,000 pounds, but by the middle of November it had reached 28,000,000 pounds. Official reports from Baghdad indicate that the circulation of bank notes in Iraq has increased by about 1,000,000 dinars. In Palestine also there has been a similar increase. Commercial circles hope that an increasing improvement in coming months will raise the prices of fruits and other agricultural products and improve the conditions of agriculture. Information from official sources indicates that the season of summer visitors in Lebanon will be better next summer than in peace times, since the authorities in the Arab countries will encourage summering in Lebanon rather than in Europe.”