AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Hundreds of trucks and tankers full of supplies and fuel are stuck outside Houthi-controlled regions after the Yemeni militia prevented local traders from importing goods through the government-controlled port city of Aden in protest of the government’s decision to hike the customs exchange rate.
Local media reports, witnesses and government officials said that long convoys of goods and fuel vehicles were reportedly prevented from entering Houthi-controlled regions via the militia’s customs stations in Taiz, Al-Bayda, Dhale and Sanaa provinces after they broke the Houthi embargo on importing commodities from Aden and the other government-controlled ports.
Social media images and videos showed large lines of trucks carrying containers, steel, petrol and other items parked in front of checkpoints manned by the Houthis in Al-Rahida, Nehim and Afar.
“We are Sanaa’s authority. We are in ruins. Disgrace on you. Come up and speak to the people,” a truck driver said loudly outside a Houthi-manned customs facility in Al-Rahida in a social media video.
Traders in the Houthi-controlled areas have complained about increasing charges levied by the Houthis when they import items from the government-controlled areas.
They accuse the Houthis of harassing them to push them to import goods via the Houthi-controlled western port of Hodeidah.
“The group is now barring any commercial cargo from entering its area if it is processed in line with the new customs regulations, causing several trucks to be delayed for days at the ports between the two sides,” a government official, who requested anonymity, told Arab News.
In January, the internationally recognized government of Yemen increased the dollar customs exchange rate by 50 percent from YER 500 ($2) to YER 750 among other economic measures, in an effort to increase revenues.
The government is on the verge of bankruptcy after Houthi drone attacks on oil facilities in southern Yemen halted oil exports, its primary source of revenue.
The decision has sparked outrage among Yemenis and experts, who have warned of skyrocketing prices for goods and fuel.
The decision has also prompted the Yemeni parliament to request that the government seek alternative methods to increase revenues that would not harm the public, such as combating corruption effectively and collecting revenues from provinces.
Last week, an Aden court ordered the Yemeni government to suspend its decision to raise the customs exchange rate until the government’s officials attend the proceedings.
The court’s order came after a local journalist and attorney sued the government.
Despite the pressure, the Yemeni government official told Arab News it will not revoke the decision as it is the only option available to generate earnings, stating that the international community is behind the move.
“We will continue with the reforms because the alternative is a withdrawal from the issuance of printed money, which would result in an unparalleled economic collapse, including a devaluation of the currency,” the government official said.
“Oil exports used to account for 80 percent of the country’s income, and there is no way to compensate for this loss in the long term,” said the official.
Fatehi bin Lazerq, editor of Aden Al-Ghad newspaper who sued the government, told Arab News that he expected the Yemeni government to defy public pressure and proceed with the decision to increase the customs exchange rate.
“When I filed the complaint, I intended to make the decision unlawful, while being certain that the government would not back down, particularly after the loss of oil export profits, which are the country’s most vital source of income,” Bin Lazerq said.