Flourishing of the Second-Hand Markets! [Archives:1999/46/Business & Economy]

November 15 1999

By: Abdul Hakim Hashem

The Yemeni government has embarked on programs of economic reform as prescribed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in an attempt to address some of the economic problems. However, this comes to negatively affect the middle class of the Yemeni society. The result has been a large segment of this class’s living standard dropping sharply and actually increasing the number of those living below the poverty line. These people have become unable to sustain themselves in such conditions. To make this more clear, the report of the Economic and Social Committee of Western Asia, ESCWA, revealed that the poverty rate has increased from 19.1% in 1992 to 51.19% in 1997. That is, the number of poor people has increased from 3,200,000 to 9,000,000 and the rate of abject poverty runs from 9% to 24%. That is, they have increased from 1,500,000 million to 4 million. Besides, there are more than 90% of families whose income can hardly cover their basic expenses, which equals about $140.
Poverty has also reached the educated and holders of university degrees due to continuous inflation, unemployment and the devaluation of the Yemeni currency against others.
Then, another menace, unemployment, turns up to be a painful headache that hurts many people, especially those who graduate to find themselves on the street. It was around 9% in 1994. Then it went up to 30-40% according to the World Bank’s reports which indicate that the unemployment rate is 69% among the work force in rural areas and 21.7% among the educated, and 1.5% among those who got higher education after graduation.
These problems have been associated with an increase in population and high sustenance rate of about 101.8%, the highest one in the entire world. This has given rise to different old phenomena which distinctly reflect the amount of people’s suffering. One of these distressing and heartbreaking phenomena is the emergence of second-hand markets which have lately become common in most of the governorates of the Republic. The number of people who come to these markets increases regularly either in terms of those who come to buy or those who want to sell their things. In this article, I will shed some light on these markets.
I talked to Mohammed Thabet Abo Rajab who owns a shop at Al-Safiah Second-hand Market and he said, “I sell electronic and electric tools for they are very common and people come to buy them regularly. Such tools have very much demand especially during Ramadan, Eids and at the end of each month when employees receive their salaries. People come in great numbers to buy such tools and frequent these markets mainly due to their hard economic conditions that goes from bad to worse. Regarding the tools we put on sale, most are second-hand. I believe that much demand is on TVs, furniture, especially carpets and fridges.”

Mr. Mohsen Ahamd Ali said, “Most of the goods found here are TVs, mixers, cassette recorders, etc. People come to such markets mainly because of the big difference of prices in these markets and prices in other ones. If you look for such goods in other markets, you will find them for fancy prices. In regards to the commission we get, it depends upon the kind of goods sold.”

Mr. Saleh Ali in Al-Awlaki Second-Hand market said, “I have got a shop to sell furniture and I think that carpets are the most in demand at the moment in this as well as other markets. These goods are very cheap in comparison with others sold in well-known exhibitions and markets. Prices here are less than other markets by more than a half. Most of the goods we sell are second-hand for about one to two years. However, as these goods are imported from outside the country, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, they seem to be very new.”

Mr. Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Hobaishi has got a shop in Al-Hasabah market. He sells ready-made clothes. He sees that the people who come to buy these clothes are not that many. He said, “People tend to come to these markets mainly because of their miserable conditions. Sometimes, we get high profits and sometimes we tend to lose so that we may be able to sell some goods. Most of the people come to buy coats which we buy from some of Bab Al-Yemen merchants who said that they buy them from importing merchants such as Al-Habari and Al-Kabuss.”

We can divide these markets into two categories according to the goods on sale:
1) General Markets
2) Movable Specialized market Places
General Markets:
They are very famous and are located in specific places. They are divided into different shops and each one sells specific things. The most famous one is Al-Awlaki in Al-Safiah, Al-Tawfeek Second-hand market in Taiz street, Al-Safiah Second-hand Market and another one in 45 m. Street.
Movable Specialized market Places:
These markets do not have specific places and tend to follow the customer to wherever he is found. Such markets are found near bus terminals, public yards and crowded street intersections. Some of the most famous markets are Al-Tahrir Market, Bab Al-Sabah, Al-Tahrir Yard, Ali Abdul Moghni, Al-Hasabah, Nokum and Shomailah Market, etc. These markets usually sell second-hand, ready-made clothes, small home supplies, smuggled foodstuff and food supplies that are about to expire.”We can point at other markets which are a little bit different, however. They come under the category of these markets and they deserve much attention and care for they are the most affected by the deplorable economic situations and prices hikes. An example of these is the working class market where you find workers of different technical activities standing from very early in the morning to the end of the day looking for work on daily wages. The most important of these markets are Al-Ka’a market behind the University and some groups in Shomaila street and Taiz street.
The people who attend such markets are most often employees working in governmental organizations and ordinary people who have been suppressed by poverty. We met with some of them and filed the following interviews:
The first one I met was Mr. Abdul Fatah Abdullah who said, “I work in a supermarket and my salary is 7,000 riyals. I have to support my family in my village, therefore it can hardly meet the basic needs of my family. I have to buy our clothes from these markets. It used to be shameful to buy clothes from these places in the past, however, it has become inevitable these days.”

Mr. Najeeb Ibraheem, an employee in the taxation office, said, “I work in a governmental organization and the salaries of the government are well-known to all. Besides, I have no other job. Therefore, I come to these markets to buy what I and my family need. I came today to buy furniture for my house instead of buying a new TV for around 50,000 riyals, I can buy that here for half of this price and despite the fact that these goods are second-hand, sometimes you can find very nice articles. I believe that these markets have increased a lot during the past three years.”