Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s military was placed on high alert this week after the government took the decision to end a controversial fuel subsidy program, sparking scattered protests across the country.
Hundreds took to the streets of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, on Wednesday to protest against the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies. One woman was killed as Yemeni security forces sought to disperse crowds.
“Government orders were issued to increase the readiness of military and police forces, especially in Sana’a, in order to confront any threats or acts of sabotage,” a Yemeni military official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Yemen’s air force has also been placed on a state of high alert, while security personnel have increased their presence around vital state infrastructure across the country, the official added.
Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi approved the decision to lift the fuel subsidy program, which was costing the Sana’a government billions of dollars.
An official economic study by the Yemeni government published earlier this work showed that the state budget was facing “various difficulties and challenges due to the high increase of oil derivatives, exceeding the government spending on the health and education sector.”
The study placed the overall bill for fuel subsidies between 2000 and 2013 at approximately 24 billion US dollars.
Fuel prices in Yemen nearly doubled after the government ended the subsidy program. The price of regular gasoline rose from 125 Yemeni riyals (58 US cents) per liter to 200 Yemeni riyals (93 US cents).
Dr. Mohammed Al-Maitami, a professor of economics at Sana’a University, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sana’a had no choice but to end the costly subsidy program.
“The government must now make tough decisions and put forward a viable economic plan to reduce the political and social effects of the decision to end subsidies,” he said.
“The government must rely on sophisticated, effective and transparent management to reduce the negative impact of this decision as much as possible. The revenue that will be saved by lifting subsidies can then be redirected to protect the poor.”