Sunday, April 10, 2011

Severe impacts loom as Yemen unrest deepens

By Fuad Rajeh, Wang Qiuyun

SANAA, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The deepening unrest in Yemen are imposing negative impacts on people's lives and hard hitting key economic sectors and small businesses.

While major economic sectors were affected by the fall in foreign trade and the growing fears of investors, small businesses were directly hit by the escalating pro and anti-government protests, especially the sit-ins.

Hundreds of thousands of pro and anti-government protesters have been staying in tents pitched along key shopping streets in downtown cities including the capital Sanaa for more than a month, forcing some retail markets to close down and others to relocate. The businesses which remain open have complained of a remarkable decrease in their sales among fears that the escalating unrest would have further impacts.

"Now Yemen is experiencing an acute gas shortage and if this continues many shops will inevitably be closed down," said Abdul Karim Kasim, a cafeteria owner in the Zubairy Street.

"The shortage made the price of gas three times higher than that before the crisis, and the soaring prices will directly affect the poorest groups," he added.

Clothes shopkeeper Abdullah al Duba'e in the Jamal Street said the pro-government sit-ins in Tahrir Square and the anti- government sit-in outside Sanaa University blocked the key shopping streets and affected the business badly.

"As you see, there are no people here. We used to see this street very crowded and the customers came every hour, but now the situation has changed," Abdullah said.

"And if you look around, you would see some stores closed down and others relocated. Regrettably Jamal Street resembled a ghost town," he said.

Some vendors are also facing extra taxes imposed on them and " bullies" who are exploiting the unrest.

"Besides shrinking trade due to the unrest, we see taxes increasing," said Wazeer al Selwi, a qat seller, "Furthermore, bullies of those who attack the anti-government protesters come to us many times a day to get money and we have to give them that."

The unrest has already paralyzed the financial sector in Yemen, particularly the Islamic banks, which said all their activities were almost ceased.

"The situation is too bad because we do nothing these days," said Tariq Hamoud, head of the studies section at the Tadhamon International Islamic Bank.

"Due to the unrest here, Yemen's banks were seen as high-risk institutions by external institutions and if a bank wants to open a credit, it should pay 100 percent insurance," he said.

"Locally, the people are now in favor of cash and drawing their money in large amounts in U.S. dollars, and this is affecting the operations of banks in Yemen," he said.

When it comes to individuals, the impacts were mainly manifested in traffic jams because of the sit-inners' tents on main roads.

"The sit-inners closed roads, forcing people to redirect and spend more time to reach workplaces and other destinations," said citizen Abdullah al Sawadi.

A student also complained that the bus and taxi fares increased because the drivers were forced to redirect routes.

"Now the sit-in outside Sanaa University even forced the suspension of the second semester," said Asad Abdul Karim, a first- year student at the commerce college.

Tens of thousands of people have been holding a sit-in outside Sanaa University, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who rejected on Friday a GCC proposal for tackling the political crisis.

The proposal called for the resignation of Saleh and transfer of power to his deputy in return for immunity and guarantees that he and his regime will not be prosecuted. It also proposed to form a national unity government led by the opposition and draw up a new constitution ahead of holding elections.

"We appreciate the interest of regional and international countries in Yemen's stability amid the current crisis, but we will not accept any offer except the one clearly calling for an immediate exit of president Saleh," they said in a statement.

"The problem is not with how to transfer power. However, it is all about to whom power would be handed," said Tariq al Shami, chairman of Saba and information director of the ruling party General People's Congress.

The Yemeni Ministry of Trade and Industry and the General Investment Authority declined to comment on the situation and strongly refused to give specific information, including numbers or percentages about the losses the country's economy amid the escalation of unrest.

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