by Fuad Rajeh
SANAA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The liquidity crisis is continuing to deepen in Yemen amid the ongoing conflict, with government employees left without pay for a fifth or even sixth successive month.
Mohmed Taha, an employee at the Customs Service, who depends completely on his salary to support family, never expected that he would get unpaid for half a year.
"I have not paid the rent for my apartment in downtown the capital Sanaa since September, the last time I was paid," Taha said.
"I have been borrowing money from some friends to live on. This is helping me to survive. Many other people are dying silently as they can't find a source to secure food and other basic needs," he lamented.
The civil war in Yemen, which began in late 2014 between the Houthi militia and President Hadi's government, has largely exhausted the national economy.
The Saudi-led military intervention, aiming to restore the legitimacy of the government, has deepened the suffering further.
"Actually, there are no alternatives. Options are very limited to seek another job because the war has affected all sectors and everything in the country," Taha added.
The liquidity crisis adds to Yemen's humanitarian catastrophe, which Stephen O'Brien, the UN under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, described as the largest in the world since the creation of the United Nations in 1945.
"Two thirds of the population, around 19 million people, need aid," O'Brien said in his address to the UN Security Council on Friday.
He also warned about a looming famine in the war-torn country.
"Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death," the under-secretary said.
Investments, including the oil and gas ones which used to contribute more than 70 percent of the state budget, were forced to shut down in early 2015 because of the civil war and the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition.
No earnings, except from taxes and small local projects which have been affected by the conflict as well, have since come in.
But the main reason for the crisis, according to the government, is that the Houthi-Saleh militias have spent all money inside the central bank, including the 4-billion-U.S.-dollar foreign exchange reserves, on the war.
"The Houthi group suspended all budgets allocated for other governorates after seizing the capital Sanaa in late 2014. It has been spent the Bank's funds on war," said Deputy Finance Minister Khalid Zakarya.
Moreover, the Houthi-Saleh alliance has been collecting taxes, which amounted to an equivalent of 4 billion dollars in 2016 alone, and has been spending them on the war, according to the government.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Dagher warned that the government may not be able to afford any salary if the Houthi-Saleh alliance continues to control national resources.
"No government can pay salaries while half of the national resources are in the hands of its foes, referring to the Houthi-Saleh alliance," he said.
There are now about 1.2 million civil servants in Yemen serving about 7 million people.
Mustafa Nasr, the head of the Studies and Economic Media Center, said the suspension of foreign aid and donations also contributed to the liquidity crisis in Yemen.
"Other challenges that have deepened the crisis included the government's failure to control the situation in regions under its control. The government can't resume investments and exports and even can't control the situation at institutions to collect taxes and other resources properly," Nasr said.
In response to the crisis, the government relocated the central bank headquarters from the capital Sanaa to the temporary capital Aden last year.
But the move was already too late as it came after the Houthi-Saleh alliance said they were not able to pay salaries.
The good news is that the government has started to pay salaries to some institutions after cash was delivered from Russia under a deal between the government and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
So far, Yemen has received 74 billion Yemeni rials (0.3 billion U.S. dollars) from Russia, according to Zakarya.
In Sanaa, the parliament failed on Saturday to approve measures suggested by the Houthi-Saleh government to address the crisis.
Nasr said the crisis will not be solved unless the war ends, aid resumes from members of the Saudi-led coalition and a competent government takes office.
"If the interruption of salaries continues, that will contribute to an inevitable famine in Yemen that the UN has been warning of for months," he added.