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The Effect of Arab Spring on Yemen

The demonstrations and protests materializing in the Arab World are occurring in an attempt to draw attention to the repression felt by citizens of these countries.  Yemen is no exception.  Yemen’s protests, commencing in January 2011, called for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years of authoritarian rule.  Although the resistance is intended to ignite a social revolution, the consequences of these movements have larger implications for Yemen’s economy and the macroeconomy as a whole.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab World and is heavily dependent on oil resources for revenue.  According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, “petroleum accounts for roughly 25% of GDP and 70% of government revenue.”  However, Yemen faces diminishing resources, largely responsible for the country’s further decline.  Although the government has taken steps to bolster non-oil sectors of the economy along with foreign investment, they must still battle longterm challenges such as dwindling water resources and a high population growth rate in addition to Arab Spring.

The political turmoil caused by Arab Spring has exacerbated rising unemployment.  The most recent estimate of the unemployment rate reached 35%.  This in turn results in a loss of income and therefore a decline in standards of living.  This is accurately reflected in GDP per capita, estimated at $2,500 in 2011.  The population below the poverty line was also listed at 45.2%.  This is no surprise as political turmoil often demands that attention be focused elsewhere, rather than on the current state of the economy.

Rising unemployment also has the property of a domino effect.  Those people facing unemployment will have less demand for goods and services, thus affecting the employees in the sector that provides those goods and services.  A decrease in demand means that the marginal product of labor decreases.  A chain reaction ensures, causing more workers to be laid off.  In addition, the decrease in wages implies a decreasing money multiplier.  If people do not have money to save and invest, the banks cannot create more money by distributing loans.

Yemen, already a suffering country, is experiencing a loss of national output as well.  If people are spending their time protesting rather than working, resources are being wasted, which also decreases GDP.  The government must also focus on welfare spending despite foreign aid they receive for development projects and humanitarian needs, which increases deficits.  An increase in government spending results in a decline of national savings, raising the interest rate and discouraging investment.  In addition, government spending is heightened even more as the government attempts to stifle more protests and uprisings.  The corrupt government, heightened by Arab Spring, extends into the judicial system as well.  This insinuates that contracts are not enforced and private property rights are not respected.  This limits economic security and freedom, and discourages foreign investment.

Yemen has also experienced surging inflation rates since Arab Spring, ranking as one of the highest rates in the world, now at 20%.  This is a significant increase from the 2010 inflation rate of 11.2%.  This inflation occurs as the government issues large quantities of money to pay for expenditures.  With this, seigniorage occurs, which can be thought of as a tax.  Inflation tax hurts those who hold the money because old money in the hands of the public becomes less valuable.  The difference between the value of money and what it costs to print the money is seigniorage and goes to the issuer of the money.  In countries experiencing hyperinflation, this is often the government’s primary source of revenue.

Further, the Fisher effect explicates a one-to-one relation between the inflation rate and nominal interest rate (the rate the bank pays).  Thus, when inflation is high, nominal interest rates are high as well.  This lowers the demand for real money balances, the quantity of money in terms of the quantity of goods and services it can buy.  In other words, it measures the purchasing power of the stock of money.  If demand decreases, there is a decreased desire among the population to hold assets in the form of cash or bank deposits because of it’s decrease in value.  This is true for Yemen, as it experiences high inflation.

Arab Spring has negatively affected Yemen’s already poor economy.  The adverse effects are intertwined, leading the country farther into poverty.  These multiplier effects not only travel through Yemen’s economy, but through the macroeconomy as a whole.  The World Bank experienced interrupted projects during the political crisis in 2011 is just one example.  Thus, Arab Spring is not only a crisis for the Arab World, but the world in its entirety.