Economic studies
Yemen

Yemen

Population 28.2 million
GDP per capita 1334 US$
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Synthesis

MAJOR MACRO ECONOMIC INDICATORS

  2014 2015 2016(f) 2017(f)
GDP growth (%) -0.2 -28.1 -9.8 5.0
Inflation (yearly average) (%) 8.1 39.4 11.0 18.0
Budget balance (% GDP) -4.1 -10.5 -11.3 -10.0
Current account balance (% GDP) -1.6 -5.4 -6.1 -5.8
Public debt (% GDP) 48.7 66.6 82.3 80.5

 

(e) Estimate   (f) Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Political and financial backing of neighbouring countries and several western countries given the geostrategic importance of Yemen
  • Architectural and cultural heritage

WEAKNESSES

  • Civil war resulting in an economic and humanitarian crisis
  • The poorest country in the Arab peninsula
  • Heavy reliance on international aid
  • Depletion of oil reserves, not made up for by production of liquefied natural gas
  • Water shortage affecting farming
  • Disadvantageous business environment (bureaucracy, corruption, deficient infrastructure)

RISK ASSESSMENT

An economy devastated by civil war

Yemen was the poorest country in the Arab peninsula before the beginning of the conflict. More than 50% of the population lived below the poverty line and the oil sector was in decline whereas in 2014, it represented 80% of the country's exports. The aggravation of the civil war in 2015 resulted in a 35% decline in GDP over 2015-2016. The oil sector remains one of the worst affected. Although some exports resumed in 2016 after government forces took back certain territories, production halts such as that in April 2016 remain frequent. Oil exports also remain weakened by the fall in oil prices. Commercial trade has plummeted and investment remains virtually non-existent. The coalition's bombing has worsened the state of infrastructure (much of which has been destroyed), wiping out part of the productive system. The United Nations post-disaster assessment report estimates the cost of destruction at $19 billion or the equivalent of 50% of 2013 GDP. In addition to the direct impact of fighting, serious fuel and electricity shortages will continue to restrict economic activity, which is likely to remain undermined by the consequences of the conflict during 2017. With the loss of investment and the destruction of infrastructure, restoring production level preceding the civil war would be problematic in the short term even if the conflict eases. However, even if the conflict is resolved and an emergency plan put in place (as has started to materialise in Aden and in other liberated regions which have access to imports again), financed by aid from Gulf countries, the humanitarian situation would still be just as worrying. The UN estimates that more than 18.8 million people need humanitarian aid, 10 million of whom require emergency help. Blockages and the destruction of port infrastructure increase the risk of shortfalls in food and medicines, leading to a significant increase in prices for first aid goods strengthened by the lack of currencies. Prices of food products are thought to have increased by more than 26% in August 2016.  The liquidity crisis has worsened since the government has decided to transfer the central bank from Sanaa to Aden and adds weight to supply difficulties.

 

The state of the external and public accounts hangs on evolution of the conflict

The destruction of port infrastructure considerably limits the recovery in foreign trade. The current deficit is likely to remain in negative territory in 2017 but should decline relative to 2016. The part-resumption of oil production and the increase in per barrel in 2017 should favour export revenues.  Imports will nevertheless remain restricted due to difficulties accessing the domestic market. 

The state of the public accounts is also critical. Bilateral international aid in particular is set to become the main source of state financing. Lower oil prices limit budgetary revenues even though large shares of public services are no longer ensured. Within the combat zones, humanitarian associations are replacing the state.

 

Critical political and security situation

Since 2014, Yemen has been troubled by a civil war between the Houthis rebels and government forces backed by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia with the help of nine Arab countries. With the military intervention of the Sunni Arab coalition, the conflict has taken on a new dimension in terms of the tensions between the Shiite and Sunni communities, exacerbated by the duality between Saudi Arabia and Iran. After a cease-fire during summer 2016, fighting resumed as of August following the failed peace talks led by the UN in Kuwait. Terrorist organisations such as the AQPA (regional branch of Al Qaida) or the Islamic State, already present in the country, made the most of the deterioration in the security situation in order to extend their influence and multiply Jihadist attacks.  In October 2016, the US carried out its first strikes on radar sites controlled by the Houthis rebels in retaliation to an attack on a ship in its fleet.  Until then the country was only providing logistical support and information to the coalition. In November 2016, after the failure of another peace process led by the UN, the Houthis rebels decided unilaterally to form a government made up of 42 ministers. These still control the North-West part of the country, which represents more than 50% of the country’s total population.

 

 

Last update: January 2017

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