Five years into the ongoing and tragic conflict, the paper analyzes how Syria’s economy and
its people have been affected and outlines the challenges in rebuilding the economy. With
extreme limitations on information, the findings of the paper are subject to an extraordinary
degree of uncertainty. The key messages are: (1) that the devastating civil war has set the
country back decades in terms of economic, social and human development. Syria’s GDP
today is less than half of what it was before the war started and it could take two decades or
more for Syria to return to its pre-conflict GDP levels; and that (2) while reconstructing
damaged physical infrastructure will be a monumental task, rebuilding Syria’s human and
social capital will be an even greater and lasting challenge.
The paper analyzes how the UNDP, the World Bank, and the IMF classify countries based on their level of development. These systems are found lacking in clarity with regard to their underlying rationale. The paper argues that a country classification system based on a transparent, data-driven methodology is preferable to one based on judgment or ad hoc rules. Such an alternative methodology is developed and used to construct classification systems using a variety of proxies for development attainment.