Date
9 December 2018
Protesters in Aden block a street with burning tires on Sunday as public anger mounts amid soaring prices of essential goods following a plunge in the value of the Yemeni Rial. Photo: Reuters
Protesters in Aden block a street with burning tires on Sunday as public anger mounts amid soaring prices of essential goods following a plunge in the value of the Yemeni Rial. Photo: Reuters

Protests erupt in Yemen as prices soar amid currency plunge

Demonstrators protesting against soaring prices and weakening currency blocked major roads and burned tires in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Sunday, prompting authorities to unveil some emergency economic measures, Reuters reports.

The Yemeni rial has lost more than half its value against the US dollar since the start of a civil war in 2015 between the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, based in the south and backed by Saudi Arabia, and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the north.

Soaring prices have put some basic commodities out of reach for many Yemenis, and the central bank has struggled to pay public-sector salaries on which many depend as foreign exchange reserves dwindle, the report noted.

Following the protests Sunday, the government ordered a temporary halt on imports of luxury goods like automobiles, and a 30 percent salary increase for public-sector employees, aiming to contain the growing public anger over the deteriorating economic situation.

Aden’s usually bustling markets were empty on Sunday after the coordinating council of the General Confederation of Southern Workers’ Unions called for civil disobedience, Reuters noted.

Plumes of smoke from burning tires filled the air, including in the main square where a National Bank of Yemen building is located.

There were reports of smaller protests in nearby municipalities.

One of the organizers said demonstrations and civil disobedience would continue daily from 6 am to 2 pm except on Fridays until the current government resigns and prices for consumer goods are reduced.

Authorities have sought to boost liquidity by printing money, but the rial plunged to 350 to the dollar from 250 after the first batch of newly printed notes was rolled out last year. It was trading at 440 to the dollar by the end of last year and declined to about 500 in January.

Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition against the Houthis, then deposited US$2 billion in Yemen’s central bank to shore up the rial, but the currency later weakened again.

By Sunday evening, bankers and currency traders in Aden said it had dropped sharply, reaching 610 to the dollar.

In addition to the import ban and salary raises, the government ordered an unspecified increase in production from the Maila oilfields in Hadramout province, the export of oil from Shabwa province, and urgent measures to export gas.

It also said that unregistered money exchangers would be closed and government entities would need a license to deal with the foreign exchange market.

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RC

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