Hundreds protest against high prices in Yemen’s Aden

Demonstrators burn tyres and block major roads, demanding the government reduce prices of consumer goods.

Protesters in Yemen
While the official exchange rate is 250 Yemeni riyals to the dollar, the unofficial market rate is 550 [Fawaz Salman/Reuters]

Hundreds of Yemenis have poured onto the streets of Yemen’s coastal city of Aden to demand economic reforms as high commodity prices and a weakening currency have left many citizens destitute in the war-ravaged country.

Protesters blocked major roads and chanted anti-government slogans on Sunday with images posted on social media showing thick plumes of smoke from burning tyres.

Shops and government offices were forced to close after the General Confederation of Southern Workers’ Unions called for civil disobedience until the prices of consumer goods were reduced, local tv channel Belqees reported.

There were also reports of smaller protests in other cities in the south of the country early on Monday.

“There is no alternative to change the situation except popular revolution against corruption in all its forms,” said Fadl Ali Abdullah, one of the protesters. “The people have lost confidence in everything around them.”

The Yemeni rial has lost more than half its value against the US dollar since 2015 when a civil war broke out between the internationally recognised government, based in the south and backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the Houthi movement that controls the north, including the capital Sanaa.

Authorities sought to boost liquidity by printing money but the rial has continued to plunge.

While the official exchange rate is 250 Yemeni riyals to the dollar, the unofficial market rate is 550.

By Sunday evening, bankers and currency traders in Aden said the conversion rate had reached 610 to the dollar.

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.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has lived in exile in Riyadh since 2015, directed the government’s economic committee to find “effective measures and solutions to overcome the current situation”, in comments carried by state news agency SABA but there were few concrete details.

The report said the committee had approved an increase in salaries for public sector workers, including retirees and contractors, without specifying how much.

It was also not immediately clear when the raise would take effect.

President Hadi, who has previously been treated for a heart condition, left for the United States on Sunday for medical care. He will also take part in the UN General Assembly in New York that takes place on September 18.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies