By Ali Fakih & Walid Marrouch
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Since the eruption of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, the world came to face the largest wave of forced migration in recent history. What began as a small-scale internal displacement problem quickly escalated into a large-scale crisis, one that spilled across borders into neighboring countries. As of October 2015, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt host more than four million Syrians refugees. The number of internally displaced has reached 6.5 million – a significant number considering Syria’s population only totaled about 22 million on the eve of the crisis. Smaller economies, like those of Jordan and Lebanon, are impacted the most by this population displacement. For instance, Jordan currently holds the world record for the lowest ratio of natives to refugees, at a rate of three to one. Against this backdrop, Jordan constitutes an interesting case study to examine the economic impacts of the Syrian refugee crisis and of forced migration on host countries’ economies.
The economic pressures on Jordan’s economy caused by the influx of Syrian refugees are substantial. As of October 2015, the total number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is 630,000. While it may be too early to determine the full impact of this influx on long-run macroeconomic outcomes, a number of socio-economic indicators already provide a grim picture. In 2013, the Jordanian government incurred a total cost of $81.4 million in enrolling 78,531 Syrian children in public schools. The funding needed to enroll Syrian students and to maintain the infrastructure for local students reached $257 million in 2015. Jordan’s government has also spent $168 million on basic health services for refugees. Available figures regarding infrastructure costs indicate that some $62 million per year is needed to cover the additional demand derived from the influx of Syrian refugees. These infrastructure investments are mainly related to the provision of municipal services, such as access to running water, connections to the power grid, and road maintenance and construction. The funding needed in response to the influx of refugees as percentage of Jordan’s budget reached around 35 percent in 2015. Such swift budgetary shocks highlight the need for international solidarity to meet the incremental funding requirements of vulnerable, middle-income countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
Picture: Voice of America News: Margaret Besheer reports from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli; “Syrian Refugees Seek Out Smugglers”. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons