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Yemen - Introduction

Yemen is a strategically important country in the Arabian Peninsula, overlooking the Mandab Strait, and has great economic potential with its large labor force, long shoreline, and agricultural and hydrocarbon resources. Yet, the country is one of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world. Poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment are widespread, and water resources are very scarce. The poor social indicators add to social tensions, complicate the management of the economy and contribute to security challenges. Furthermore, high dependence on hydrocarbon resources exposes the economy to external shocks.

Yemen, in contrast to the Gulf states, is a nation characterized by intense poverty and severe structural limits to sustainable economic growth. It is a fragile state in which the central government exercises limited control over territory, particularly in the northern tribal regions. Yemen’s modern history is rife with internal conflict.

The country continues to suffer from internal strife, decentralized political legitimacy, underdevelopment and corruption. A tribal rebellion in the north near the Saudi border percolated along as a vestige of the historic Imamate. In the south, latent tensions connected to unity and the civil war festered as southerners protest political and economic marginalization. With the onset of armed conflict in March 2015, real activity collapsed, the country’s human and real capital suffered, large external and internal imbalances emerged, and the fiscal deficit surged.

  • According to some estimates, Yemen is second to the United States in terms of the per capita ratio of privately owned guns. The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) and the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) unified in May of 1990 to form the Republic of Yemen (ROY).
  • Yemen is the poorest country of the Arabian peninsula. With declining financial and natural resources, it is a leading candidate for state failure in the immediate years ahead. Poverty coupled with high population growth aggravates many of Yemen's problems, fuelling widespread disenchantment and increasing tribal tensions.
  • Oil resources are declining, with a negative impact on the country's income and limit the government's ability to influence internal processes. Existing oil reserves, which provide a substantial fraction of government revenues, will be depleted within the next few years.
  • Water scarcity poses a severe challenge to economic growth and development. The water crisis is characterized by a depletion of groundwater, so that economic activity may become unsustainable in some areas.
  • Khat is chewed by an estimated that up to 90% of adult males, three to four hours daily. Between 1970 and 2000, the area devoted to khat cultivation ballooned from 8000 to 103 000 hectares in Yemen. Nearly 60% of the land cultivated for cash crops is devoted to khat growing. It is estimated that between 27-30% of Yemen's ground water goes into khat irrigation.
  • Corruption is pervasive, and precludes effective govenment response to these challenges. Yemen earned a low 2.7 rating on Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index, placing it 103 out of 159 countries surveyed.
  • Tribes remain among the most influential institutions in Yemen. Yemen remains a deeply fragmented society, divided along tribal lines, with a long history of internal armed conflict and civil war. Yemen is not so much at risk of state failure as it is a case of the failure of state formation.
  • Ali Abdullah Saleh had been Yemen's only president since the country was formed in 1990, until he was forced out in 2012.

  • Land Comparison

    area.gif (13635 bytes)

    Land Area
    527,970 sq km (203,797 sq mi)

    1,906 km (1,184 nm)
    Red Sea, Gulf of Aden

    Muslim (Zaydi-Shia majority)
    (Shaf’i-Sunni minority) Minor presence of Christian, Jewish and Hindu


    Type of Government
    Key Leaders: President,
    Vice President and Prime

    + 3 hours Coordinated Universal Time
    + 8 hours Eastern Standard Time

    16,387,963 (July 1998 est.)
    23 million (2008 est.),
    Growth rate: 3.31% (July 1998 est.)


    Major Cities and Population
    (Est. 1992)
    Capital: Sanaa 926,595
    Aden 400,783
    Taiz 290,107
    Hodeida 246,068
    Al Hudaydah 155,100

    International Airports
    Aden, Al Hayadah, Ta’izz, Sanaa

    Official Language: Arabic
    English is widely understood

    Currency Denomination: Yemeni Riyal (YR):
    $1 = 124.09 YR (1998)
    GDP $31.8 billion (1997 est.)
    GDP (official exchange rate): $26.91 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP (purchasing power parity): $55.41 billion (2008 est.)
    Budget: revenues: $9.243 billion
    expenditures: $10.36 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP Per capita: $2,300 (1997 est.)
    US$ 600 (Nominal - 2006 estimate), US$ 2,300 (PPP - 2007 estimate)
    Real growth: 5.0% (1997 est.)
    Exports: $2.3 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
    Commodities: Crude oil, cotton, coffee, vegetables, dried and salted fish.
    Imports: $2.3 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
    Commodities: Textiles, manufactured consumer goods, petroleum products, sugar, grain, fruits, foodstuffs, cement, machinery, and chemicals Unemployment: 30% (1995) Agriculture: Accounts for about 15% of GDP and over half of the labor force. Products include grain, vegetables, fruits, qat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, poultry, meat, fish.

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