As part of the “Rethinking Yemen’s Economy” initiative, more than 20 of the leading socioeconomic experts on Yemen converged for the second Development Champions Forum on January 14-16 in Amman, Jordan.
Among the urgent topics of discussion was the deterioration of the value of the Yemeni rial (YR),the magnifying impact this is having on the humanitarian crisis,and the need to re-empower the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) as the steward of the rial and the economy generally. This policy brief is an outcome of those discussions,and the recommendations it includes collectively underline the need for the CBY to function in a more coherent, assertive manner – whereby its various branches operate as a united entity that is able to draft and implement monetary policies for Yemen as a whole. This paper includes further input from the Development Champions following the announcement by Saudi Arabia on January 17 of a $2 billion deposit to the CBY.
The primary reason Yemen is experiencing the world’s largest food security emergency is that millions of people cannot afford to buy the food available in the local market.
The ongoing conflict has spurred myriad factors contributing to this crisis, such as general economic collapse and widespread loss of livelihood, restricted naval and air access to the country and internal transportation challenges that are inflating costs for importers. Imports and international trade have also been stifled financially: Yemeni commercial banks have been facing difficulties in transferring foreign currency banknotes abroad due to the air restrictions on Sana’a airport, while American and most European banks have closed the accounts Yemeni commercial banks held abroad due to compliance concerns regarding obligations to international money laundering and counter-terrorism financing standards.
In addition to these factors, the depreciation of the rial has severely impacted purchasing power in Yemen. Prior to the current conflict, the exchange rate was at YR 215 to US$1. By mid January 2018, the rial was trading at YR 530 to US$1 (before the $2 billion Saudi deposit was announced). For in-depth analysis on the the depreciation of the YR and the major contributing factors, see the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies’ (SCSS) October economic bulletin: Renewed rapid currency depreciation and diverging monetary policy between Sana’a and Aden.