The Yemeni army’s assault on rebelling Houthi tribesmen in the northern province of Sadaa is the subject of mounting concern for observers, but it is far from being the only area of civil disorder in the country. In October and November, southern secessionists took to blockading roads near Aden, even shooting two policemen in one incident.
It is an odd time, then, for international and Yemeni companies to announce tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars of new real estate developments in the country.
Yemen’s state development agency, The General Holding Corporation for Property Development & Investment (Shibam), plans to start work on up to $2.3bn of luxury residential developments in 2010-11. The first four are to be funded through off-plan sales.
Meanwhile, Dubai’s Al-Noor Holding Investment Company says it expects to award a build-operate-transfer contract for the first phase of a bridge linking Yemen with the African state of Djibouti in 2010, part of an estimated $200bn real estate and transport scheme.
That the government and international investors are trying to bring foreign capital into the country is laudable. That they are doing it by targeting high net worth individuals, building major real estate schemes in a country where power and water supplies are regularly interrupted and security remains a priority issue, is missing the point entirely.
Without investment in education, infrastructure, agriculture and industry, the country’s poorest people will remain poorer than their Arab neighbours. And, as such, they will continue to feel disenfranchised and are more liable to continue to attack the government.
Until the government learns how to attract money for the benefit of the economy as a whole, any investment into real estate projects will be wasted.