Dubai Deposits fell by an average of 35 per cent in 2011 at Bank of Syria and Overseas, Bank Audi Syria and Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi, according to April filings to the Damascus Securities Exchange.

Lending plunged 22 per cent last year, the filings by the three banks show. The central bank's foreign reserves may drop to $10 billion this year, half the 2010 peak, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The 14 month-long uprising that has claimed more than 9,000 lives is taking an increasing toll on the economy and the business class, mostly drawn from the majority Sunni community. Their support for Bashar Al Assad — who stems from the minority Alawite sect — may buckle as economy spirals downward.

Too costly

If "the government cannot come up with a consistent policy to stop this economic deterioration, at some point in time Syrian businesses are going to realise that backing Al Assad himself is too costly," Ayesha Sabavala, an EIU economist on Syria, said in a telephone interview.

Syria's pound weakened to about 68 per US dollar, from 47 per dollar before the uprising started in March 2011. Unofficial money exchangers on the Lebanese side of the border sell the pound at about 72 per dollar.

Syria's economy may contract 5.9 per cent in 2012 after shrinking 3.4 per cent in 2011 because of the unrest. Inflation may accelerate to 14.7 per cent in 2012 from 4.8 per cent in 2011, it said.

One of the country's main exports has slumped since the European Union's decision to stop importing Syrian crude oil last year. That has cost it $3 billion in revenue, Oil Minister Sufian Alao told the official Syrian Arab News Agency on April 30.