Syria's main private banks saw customer withdrawals grow by hundreds of millions of dollars in the third quarter of last year as the uprising against President Bashar Al Assad continued to take its toll on the economy. Figures published by the Damascus stock exchange showed that the decline in assets and deposits, which hit lenders in the first six months of the year, was sustained from July to September. Bankers say many people have pulled savings out of Syria since the outbreak of unrest in mid-March.
In the third quarter, deposits in private banks fell as much as 18 per cent. But the drop in the private banks, which account for less than a third of Syrian banking, may be sharper than in the state banking sector. Chris Phillips of the Economist Intelligence Unit in London said customers at Syria's private banks tended to be wealthier individuals more likely to have accounts in the Gulf, Lebanon or Jordan where they could move their money.
"What we are seeing is the transfer of the assets of a middle class and upper class in Syria that are able to do this," he said. "It's not necessarily right to suggest it is happening across the board." Bank Audi Syria's customer deposits fell 11 per cent in the third quarter to 56.56 billion Syrian pounds (Dh4.2 billion), 31 per cent lower than at the start of last year.