Unrest brings Yemen economy close to collapse Fuel supplies cut, large queues at petrol stations

SANAA, May 29, (AFP): Impoverished Yemen’s economy is on the brink of collapse after four months of anti-regime protests and a political deadlock that has dragged the country into deadly tribal feuds.
The crisis has swollen Yemen’s budgetary deficit and is driving off urgently-needed foreign aid, economists say.
Fuel supplies have grown scarce with the closure of a refinery after tribesmen attacked a pipeline, causing losses of around $300-400 million per month.
Yemen normally exports 105,000 barrels per day out of 280,000 produced.
In addition to anti-regime protests, tribal feuds and poverty, Yemen is also battling a southern secessionist movement, a northern rebellion and an Al-Qaeda resurgence.
Trucks and buses at petrol stations queue for hours, while water supply shortages and power blackouts are a daily norm.
On May 8, as thousands protested against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, thousands others protested against fuel shortages in the Red Sea province of Hudaydah.
As tension on the streets mount, the budget shortfall has also shot up and could hit between $4 billion and $5.3 billion this year, a level unseen since a 1994 civil war, economists warn, from a forecast of $1.5 billion.
North and South Yemen united on May 22, 1990, but the south declared its independence on May 21, 1994, sparking the war which ended with the region overrun by northern troops.
“The current crisis has doubled the economic crisis and the economic depression. It has also created ... a warning sign for an economic collapse in the near future,” said Mostapha Nasr, an economic expert.
“There is stagnancy in many important economic sectors in Yemen,” he said.
The protests, inspired by similar uprisings which toppled autocratic rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, have drawn tens of thousands to the streets in cities across Yemen, forcing many companies to close due to the lack of workers.
Earlier this month, calls for general strikes on Saturdays and Wednesdays took widespread effect across the country, although they were less well observed in Sanaa.
Economic hardship was a driving force behind the initial protests in Yemen, where some 40 percent of its 23-million people live on less than $2 a day and a third face chronic hunger, according to international economic organisations.
“There is no work. Most companies and shop workers have joined the protest either in the capital Sanaa or in other provinces,” said another researcher, Khaled al-Khazzan.
But many ordinary Yemenis say they are ready to pay the price of their revolt. in the hope of a better future.
“I was an employee who left his job because I really hope to find the right post after the revolution,” Ali Mohammed, a former education ministry employee, told AFP.
Unemployment affects 34 percent of youth in Yemen, where under-24s account for 68 percent of the population.
Potential donors, including Yemen’s wealthy Gulf neighbours, which have pledged $20 billion for Bahrain and Oman, both hit by sustained protests, have not rushed to aid their neighbour.
“If the president agreed to sign the GCC-brokered, the Gulf states will give major support to relieve the economy of Yemen,” said Nasr.
“But unfortunately, the president’s rejection really puts us in a serious problem which is the economic collapse that may lead to chaos in the country in the next few days,” he said.
Clashes between security forces and followers of powerful tribal chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar broke out on Monday after Saleh refused to sign a transition deal with the opposition sponsored by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
Meanwhile, international pressures have mounted on the veteran leader to sign the deal and prevent further bloodshed.
Since late January, security forces and armed Saleh supporters have mounted a bloody crackdown on protests demanding his ouster, killing at least 181 people, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.
The latest fighting alone has brought to at least 68 the number killed since Monday, according to an AFP tally based on reports from medics, the government and tribal sources. Scores of others have been wounded.

Read By: 4982
Comments: 0

You must login to add comments ...
About Us   |   RSS   |   Contact Us   |   Feedback   |   Advertise With Us