Syrian Food Aid
"Thousands of impoverished Syrians began receiving cash payments from a multimillion-dollar aid fund this week, as part of a government effort to tackle persistent high levels of poverty.
"The step comes less than a month after heating fuel subsidies for two million public sector employees were unexpectedly raised by 72 per cent. The government had previously been in the process of cutting back subsidies, which it can ill afford to pay because of dwindling oil reserves.
"Import duties on various staple foods, including rice, tea, coffee and powdered milk, were also cut this week in a move designed to lessen the impact of rising food prices that have hit ordinary Syrians hard.
"Although the social aid fund has been in the pipeline for years, and the cabinet approved an outline of the programme in December, analysts in Syria say its implementation was accelerated after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, when entrenched rulers were toppled in protests fired, at least in part, by widespread public outrage at growing economic hardship."