Half of Yemenis live below poverty line

Despite the passage of nearly three years since the outbreak of the Yemeni revolution, the country remains gripped by poverty and conflict.

al-monitor A female worker cleans a street, Old Sanaa city, Nov. 11, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.

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yemeni history, yemeni gdp, yemeni economy, yemen security, yemen revolution, water security, poverty

Jan 6, 2014

Yemen's economic and social conditions did not change a lot in 2013. Yemenis did not see the change they wanted, despite the passage of three years since the outbreak of popular protests that ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and called for justice, development and fighting corruption. 

Nearly 54% of all Yemenis, who number about 25 million, remain below the poverty line. Unemployment rates have risen to 40% in general, and stand at over 60% among the youth. During 2013, the economic and security decline continued in Yemen, and suffering grew with attacks on oil and gas transport pipelines, electricity lines and Internet and telephone cables. 

Yemeni Minister of Oil and Minerals Ahmed Abdullah Daris said, "Preliminary studies show that between March 2011 and March 2013, [Yemen's economy] saw a loss of about $4.75 billion as a result of oil pipeline bombings and acts of sabotage targeting some installations." Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said that the total losses incurred by the Public Telecommunications Company due to acts of sabotage on copper cables during the first half of 2013 amounted to at least 1.5 billion Yemeni riyals ($6.97 million). 

Donor pledges 

Despite the creation of an executive bureau to facilitate the allocation of donor pledges and support the implementation of reform, Yemen's ability to allocate foreign loans and grants remains very weak and the process is slow. Of the $7.8 billion that has been pledged by donors, $6.7 billion — or about 85.1% — has been transferred. But only $3.9 billion (49.6%) has been allocated, and of this only $2.07 billion (26.2%) has been spent. 

The Friends of Yemen group, at the ministerial meeting held in New York City Sept. 25, called on the Yemeni government to make greater efforts to recruit young people, to get rid of so-called "phantom jobs" in the civil and security sectors and to reform energy subsidies. The group stressed the importance of further progress to encourage aid and foreign direct investment in Yemen to support the economy, create job opportunities and improve the lives of the Yemeni people. 

The technical office at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation confirmed that from 2010-2013, Yemen signed 107 agreements regarding grants totaling $2.3 billion, 10 agreements regarding loans totaling $433.1 million, five agreements for aid in kind valued at $228.02 million and 48 basic agreements related to bilateral cooperation.

According to a recent report issued by the Abaad Studies and Research Center, Yemen has "partially succeeded in halting the security and economic deterioration. This led to the stabilization of the local currency, the return of basic state services — although they remain slow — and a return of opportunities for international cooperation with donors." 

The Yemeni government expects economic growth to overcome the recession that hit the economy in 2011 and to grow at an average rate of 4.5% during 2012-2014. This will contribute to improved living standards and grow the per capita net GDP at a rate of 1.5% annually on average.

A humanitarian crisis

An estimated 58% of Yemen's population — or 14.7 million people — was affected by the humanitarian crisis taking place in the country and will need some form of assistance in the coming year. This number stood at about 13.1 million people in 2013. 

The most pressing requirements remain confined to a lack of food security, malnutrition among children, a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities, a lack of access to health care, rights violations and other forms of abuse, exploitation or displacement, as well as a lack of services and jobs in regions to which the displaced have returned. 

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been exacerbated because of the lack of basic services and the limited power of the state in some parts of the country, as well as the poor management of available resources. About 13 million people have no access to improved water sources, with rural areas worst affected. Meanwhile, some 8.6 million Yemenis do not have access to basic health care. There are more than 500,000 internally displaced persons and returnees, in addition to 243,000 registered refugees, the majority of whom are from Somalia. 

The 2014 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen, issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, estimated the cost of Yemen's humanitarian needs at more than $704 million. Yemen's humanitarian crisis is primarily a result of endemic poverty, long-standing underdevelopment, poor governance, environmental stress, demographic pressure and continued political instability and conflict. Furthermore, the collapse of basic services following political unrest plunged the country into a severe humanitarian crisis. 

Yemen is counting on the comprehensive National Dialogue, which began March 18, 2013, especially the "sustainable development" team. In its final report, the team approved 310 resolutions and constitutional and legal guidelines and recommendations. These included 185 resolutions on sectoral, short-term and medium-term economic development, prepared by the subcommittees on economic development and the role of the state. 

Yemen registered a fair decrease in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013, dropping to 167th place among 177 countries. It received 18 out of 100 points in the index, compared to 23 in 2012. 

The Economic Center for Studies and Media in Sanaa confirmed that the national reconciliation government has failed to apply principles of good governance, which it had promised would be a priority according to the program it submitted to the people. 

Perhaps the most notable achievement made by Yemen in 2013 was obtaining World Trade Organization membership after 13 years of negotiation. Yemen became the 160th member during the organization's ninth ministerial meeting, held from Dec. 3-6 in Bali, Indonesia. Yemen will have six months to ratify its accession package. 

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