As Yemenis run low on gas and food, revolution could take off
Since protests began earlier this year, Yemen's currency has plummeted, oil production has dropped, and food prices have risen by as much as 45 percent.
Yemeni security forces and plain-clothes gunmen opened fire on thousands of demonstrators marching through Sanaa Sunday night, leaving at least 15 wounded from live ammunition, according to doctors at the field hospital. Hundreds more were treated for the effects of acute tear gas inhalation, spilling out from the grounds of the makeshift clinic.Skip to next paragraph
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“There were thousands of us marching peacefully when baltageya [thugs] and the military opened fire on us from the street and rooftops,” says Mohammad Ali Al-Sanari, who was being treated after security forces beat him with clubs.
The chaotic scene at Sanaa’s protest area comes amid more than two months of political deadlock that has threatened the country's stability. More than 100 people have been killed since protesters began demanding the president's departure in January.
But equally threatening to Yemen's security may be the rapidly deteriorating economy.
Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab region, with nearly half of its 24 million people living below the poverty line. More than 35 percent are unemployed. With attention currently diverted to politics, the nation’s already frail financial situation appears to be crumbling. With antigovernment protests continuing to grow each week, some believe that the effects of the unraveling economy could push Saleh closer to departure.
“The economy is in the midst of a major crisis, and as soon as the political exigencies that are causing people not to focus on it disappear, then the economy will be the main issue,” says Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, an independent Sanaa-based political analyst.
Plummeting currency, lack of transparency
Since January, foreign exchange reserves have fallen 13 percent, according to the central bank.
Morover, the value of Yemen’s rial has plummeted in recent months. While the rial is officially pegged at 216 to the dollar, hundreds of exchange shops throughout Sanaa are trading rials at rates of more than 240 per dollar because of the lack of foreign currency, traders say.
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It is widely speculated that the massive pro-Saleh rallies and loyalist encampments scattered throughout the city are being directly funded through the governmental budget.
“The problem is that we don’t have solid economic foundations, meaning that the reserve of the central bank isn’t necessarily controlled by the central bank but by the president’s administration,” says Sanaa University economics professor Ali Saif. “Therefore, taking money from the reserve cannot be opposed or even observed because of the lack of institutional structure, which makes spending unofficial. It’s impossible to trace the flow of money.”