Yemeni Islands: Forgotten Economic Sources [Archives:2001/40/Business & Economy]

October 1 2001

Mahyoub Al-Kamali
Yemeni islands, which number over 140 islands in the Red Sea and the Arab Sea, have a lot of economic, tourist and environmental potential. Studies show that if the government of Yemen established natural reservations on these islands in cooperation with the concerned international organizations it would provide the national economy with substantial funds which would ease the deficit in the general budget totaling YR 14 billion.
Participants at the Symposium on the “Horizons & Development of Yemeni Islands”, held in Sana’a, stressed the importance of forming specialized teams to conduct scientific studies tackling the problems of sea water pollution, random fishing, improper management of Yemeni islands and the lack of coordination between Yemen and the neighboring countries, particularly in relation to the problem of smuggling in the Yemeni islands.
Weak Infrastructure
The studies that were presented to the symposium focused on the weakness of the infrastructure in the Yemeni islands. Thus, there is a need for funds to produce the sustainable environment in the islands, this is a task which requires general service projects such as telephone networks, water, schools, hospitals, and roads, which will in turn help in exploiting the revenues in funding the crippled projects in these islands.
Yemeni islands can be classified into three categories as follows: islands with strategic location, islands with touristic attraction which enjoy natural biodiversity like Socotra archipelago in the Indian Ocean and Kamaran islands in the Red Sea, as well as fishing islands like Hunaish islands, Socatra, and other islands located near the Strait of Bab al-Mandab.
Special Investment Law for Islands
Due to the economic importance of Yemeni islands, participants at the symposium requested the General Authority for the Development & promotion of Islands to enact laws concerning investment in islands and provide facilities for investors. The symposium also tackled the strategic working program of environment in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as well as its relation with the promotion of the Yemeni islands.
Historical and Archaeological Islands for Tourism
Yemeni islands enjoy archaeological and historical sites as well as biodiversity, especially in Kamaran, Meyon and Socotra. This makes it possible to construct a tourist museum assembling those monuments.
The Yemeni government has been concerned with the internal affairs in the mainland thus ignoring the situation of the islands, which mostly lack general service projects. However, the unification of the country in 1990 has enabled the government protect these islands and make use of their natural resources as well. Moreover, the government has woken up to the security risks facing Yemen if these islands remained unprotected.