Weaponzing currency: No ethical boundaries in seeking to topple government

Weaponzing currency: No ethical boundaries in seeking to topple government






By Sarah Hassan

“Die,” Abdullah Sayf demands during a tiff with his wife on the phone as she calls him from Sana’a. He was trudging out of a money exchange shop in Aden, disappointed that the fees he has to pay to send her YR 100,000 has now risen to YR 47000, obviously close to half the amount. 

“The fees have been rising and rising. I hardly accepted it when the fee for sending YR 100,000, was YR 35,000 months ago. But now I don’t know what to do. It is a an outright rip-off to be able to send only half the amount in your hand to your relatives and pay the other half as a remittance fee!”

Sayf, like millions of other Yemenis, is the victim of Houthi measures including a ban in December 2019 of the newly printed currency in the theocratic militia-controlled Sana’a, measures President Hadi’s legitimate government and independent economic analysts called at the time as “vandalism.”

Before the Houthis imposed the ban, there was one exchange rate for the old new notes of the Riyal in the country:  YR 560 for one US dollar.

Since the ban, the Central Bank of Yemen split into Sana’a-based and Aden-based rivals.

Today, Thursday, one USD converts to YR 922 in Aden, loosely dubbed the “seat” of the government, and YR 600 in Sana’a, the stronghold of the Shia extremists. “And the gap is increasing day by day, unless this nonsense is stopped and the international community such that the Houthi militia and other malign actors are stopped from dividing Yemen along economic fault lines,” says economic analyst, Ahmed Ba-Abbad. “It is true that inflation in the government-run territories is one cause, but that is because the legit government is paying salaries. Houthis are not. Cash is rare in Sana’a. They have not paid the salaries of more than four years. They hoard the money in the basements of their warlords.”

“Besides,” he adds, “the government is not truly running the central bank or anything in Aden. Everyone knows what is going on in this country. Lastly we have got Houthi affiliates recruited from Sana’a to run sensitive departments in Aden Central Bank as revealed by Al-Ayyam daily on November 5. If that is true, we are ending up with two banks, both controlled by Houthi affiliates.” “What I am sure of is that the government has no control over any central bank in the country,” Ba-Abbad claims.

“This is a real catastrophe worsening the Yemeni humanitarian crisis, and harming millions of Yemenis,” he said.

Ba-Abbad says the split of the Riyal into two and collapse of the government’s is a a currency weaponization, or using currency as a tool of war.  “But it is not hurting the image of the government, because the Yemeni public understand very well: The government was not allowed to export gas and bring in hard currency. Hadi’s government, the first legitimate in Yemen’s history and an outcome of the Arab Spring, has never been allowed to take over or control any state institution in stable circumstances. Not at any time or any place, Sana’a or Aden.”

“Let’s come back to the origin of it all,” Ba-Abbad says, “Yemenis, in 2011, simply dreamt of having a government, a representative, legitimate one. This, in the eyes of many, looked like too much good to be allowed to take place.” Ever since, Yemenis “can count their friends by the fingers of one hand,” he says, clenching fists.

Yaser Ali, an economic journalist, says the recent collapse of the Riyal “is a measure under control: President Hadi’s arms are being twisted to get him to concede the rest of his authority in the south to the STC, by declaring a joint Cabinet with the militia before the latter withdraw forces from Aden as per the Riyadh Agreement. The impact of this irresponsible influencing method is hitting the Yemeni people hard. Millions are already hungry and on the brink of literal starvation, as a result. But those seeking to cast Hadi’s government in bad light in preparation to topple it are maximalists after their goal and know no ethical boundaries." “We are in a world full of benign countries,” he says, winking.


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