News / Middle East

    As Yemeni Economy Grows, Poverty Deepens

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Heather Murdock

    Officially, Yemen's economy is growing.  Unofficially, the nation appears to be trapped in a disastrous downward economic spiral. 

    On the streets of Sana'a, anger over price hikes is growing almost as fast as the prices.  In the past few months, the cost of wheat and sugar has more than doubled they say, and cooking gas, in constant short supply, can cost three times as much as it did a few months ago.

    And while Yemen's Central Bank projects economic growth as high as eight percent in 2010, to average Yemenis, the idea that their country's economy is growing is laughable.

    Price hikes


    Ibrahim Musleh al-Farzay sells snacks, cigarettes, and canned food from his Sana'a shop.  He says some items in his store have gone up as much as 50 percent in recent months.  In the summer of 2005, price hikes in Yemen sparked riots that killed dozens of people, and injured hundreds.  Two young men died in the chaos right outside his shop, al-Farzay says.  If things do not get better soon, he thinks the riots will start again.

    But even by modest accounts, Yemen's economy is growing.  Oil exports fill about 70 percent of the government's coffers.  And although known oil supplies are drying up, Yemen has begun exporting liquefied natural gas.  The project, worth more than $4 billion over five years, is hailed by the government as an economic savior.

    But Yemeni economists say that energy revenue alone will not help average people.  Sana'a University Economics Professor Taha al-Fusail says the energy sector may be a lifeline, but Yemen needs to diversify its economy if it wants to grow in a way that will fund the government and feed the people.

    "But I think also we should consider agriculture, fishing, manufacturing also, which has sustainability for the economy.  Unfortunately we did not benefit from the oil or the gas," he said.

    Al-Fusail says the price-hikes are a result of the devaluation of the local currency.  The Yemeni riyal has lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar in recent months.  Diversifying the economy, he says, would also help the country produce more and buy less, reducing the impact of the sinking value of Yemeni money.  At the moment, Yemen imports most of what it consumes.

    Extreme poverty


    And as the cost of everything goes up, extreme poverty in Yemen becomes more prevalent.  Millions of people can barely find enough to keep themselves alive and unemployment is reported as high as 40 percent.  In a country where half the people live on less than $2 a day, locals crowd desolate refugee camps, trying to get in.  The camps, which are meant to house only people fleeing wars, at least have some food and shelter.

    And while international aid to combat terrorism in Yemen has increased in recent months, humanitarian agencies say they are running out of money.  Yemeni officials say the international funding is not nearly enough to combat poverty, which they say is the real security threat in Yemen.

    Terror threat


    But the threat of terrorism, according to former Yemeni prime minister Abdul Karim al-Iryani, is equally part of the downward economic spiral causing anger on the streets of Sana'a.

    "Investment is very, very limited because of the security situation," he said.  "Tourism is almost zero.  Some hotels are closed.  Economic growth, it is a prediction, but I think it is far fetched that it will grow at eight percent."

    As Yemen battles al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a Southern separatist movement, and tries to wrap up a six-year old war in the north, Western governments warn their citizens to stay out of the country, scaring off tourists and investors.  Al-Iryani says the warnings are harming his country, and that Yemen's major cities and almost all its roads are safely controlled by the central government.

    But he says for this year Yemen's economic prospects are poor, and the country would be lucky to grow at half the rate the Central Bank has projected.  If it grows at four percent, he says, that would be a "bonanza."

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora