At a time when Yemen is experiencing a tragic humanitarian crisis, the war economy and illicit wealth have become entrenched in the poorest Arab country, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars that were sufficient to alleviate the aggravating tragic situation.
The 7-year-old war has claimed the lives of at least 233,000 people, and 80% of Yemen’s population has become dependent on aid to survive, in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations.
Last Wednesday, a report issued by the UN Security Council’s sanctions monitors team accused the Yemeni government and the “Houthi” group of money laundering and illegal exploitation of large sums of money.
The report said, “Saudi Arabia deposited two billion dollars with the Central Bank of the Yemeni government in early 2018, as part of a development and reconstruction program, as a line of credit to purchase basic commodities to enhance food security and stabilize the prices of these commodities locally.”
But the Central Bank – according to the report – violated the rules of changing currencies and manipulated the currency market, and laundered a large part of the Saudi deposit with a complex scheme for money laundering, which earned traders $ 423 million in profits.
The Yemeni riyal is suffering an unprecedented sharp deterioration. Last Saturday, the price of one dollar reached more than 850 riyals, after it was equal to 215 riyals before the war.
The UN report stated that the Houthis diverted at least $ 1.8 billion in 2019 from the intended purpose and used a large part of it to finance the war effort.
He added that the Houthis perform jobs that fall exclusively under the authority of the Yemeni government, as they collect taxes and other public revenues, a large part of which is used to finance their war effort.
For years, more than a million government employees have lived in Houthi-controlled areas without wages, despite the group’s ability to pay them, which led to the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation, according to economic reports.
Governmental denial and Houthi astonishment
The UN report was met with the objection of the Yemeni government, and the Houthi group’s astonishment, and the Central Bank’s administration in the government described, in a meeting on Thursday, the conclusions reached by the UN team as “misleading allegations,” according to the official Yemeni agency (Saba).
In turn, the Houthi group ignored the UN report, with the exception of a member of its Supreme Political Council, Muhammad Ali Al-Houthi, who commented on the report in a brief tweet on his Twitter account, saying, “The experts’ report is very strange.”
Commenting on the UN report and the entrenchment of the war economy in Yemen, Yemeni economic researcher Abdul Wahid Al-Oubli says, “The annual revenues that the Houthis receive are more than $ 1.8 billion.”
Al-Aubali added that the Houthis are practically taking over the revenues from taxes, customs and fees, which were about 30% of the Yemeni government’s budget, according to 2014 figures.
“The Houthis receive more sums than the UN report mentioned, but the lack of transparency and terrorism practiced by the Houthi militia against journalists hinders the monitoring and writing of documented reports on this type of violation,” he said.
Al-Obli stated that the UN report contained very dangerous information, and it would affect the Yemeni government’s ability to restore confidence in its financial institutions, because trust is an integral part of the capital of any bank.
And he added that documenting corruption in the Central Bank of Yemen by a UN committee will make it difficult to restore confidence and delay the response of donors to the government, or Saudi Arabia, for example, to respond to the government’s requests to support it with a new Saudi deposit.
At the expense of the citizen
For her part, the Yemeni journalist specializing in humanitarian affairs, Afaf Al-Abara, said that the war economy has been entrenched since the beginning of the conflict in the country, which has led to great and enormous wealth among many personalities, whether those affiliated with the government or the Houthis.
She added – in statements to Anatolia – that this illicit wealth, financial corruption, widespread exploitation, and trade in international aid are all factors that have led to the exhaustion of Yemenis living in tragedy, until many of them are on the brink of starvation.
“At a time when more than a million employees live without wages, especially those under the control of the Houthis, there is a great waste of money for the sake of the war effort, without looking at the pains and pains of the employees who are now living in tragedy and poverty.”
She added, “There is no solution to this tragedy created by war merchants except to end this conflict and stop (the war economy), and this will not happen as long as there are big merchants who benefit from the continuation of the conflict, as they make millions of dollars at the expense of the simple citizen who became hungry in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” .