Commercial shopping malls and luxury property in a time of poverty

Inject suspicious funds into the real estate sector (AFP)

Luxury shopping malls spread across several major Yemeni cities have emerged remarkably as the major investment projects in recent years, in Yemen, which has been experiencing a crippling conflict for the eighth year in a row, plunging millions of Yemenis into poverty.
The Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and other cities such as Aden in southern Yemen are packed with dozens of shopping malls (commercial complexes), many of which have recently opened, despite the country’s dependence on international aid and grants that focus mainly on humanitarian crisis. which plagues most of Yemen’s population. These shopping malls have large areas and large capabilities that cost large capital, in an investment environment that is suspended due to the ongoing war in the country.
A recent report reveals the spread of money laundering in Yemen as a result of the continuation of the war and the disruption of the anti-money laundering system, in addition to the emergence of a thriving real estate movement and a parallel economy, through the circulation of illegal funds, which according to official reports, is estimated at about $ 30 billion, according to a study done in this regard.

The report issued by the Center for Studies and Economic Media, reviewed by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, summarized the sectors in which illegal funds were pumped, including the officially unlicensed exchange companies, the unregulated real estate market, the trading of oil derivatives and smuggling.

The report, released last month, addressed the need to rebuild the anti-money laundering system in Yemen and activate its role in monitoring and limiting money laundering activities, including increasing the effectiveness of anti-money laundering oversight. money laundering and terrorist financing units in the Central Bank and Yemeni banks, as well as the unit for gathering information on combating money laundering Money and terrorist financing.
In an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a legal adviser specializing in public fund issues, who prefers not to be named, doubts the circulating figures that estimate the size of suspicious funds in Yemen. He believes this could exceed official statistics ($ 30 billion), according to changes in the local exchange rate. He said Yemen had been suffering from a chronic problem since before the war, which is represented in hidden economic inflation as a major outlet for suspicious funds, in addition to corruption, which is the primary reason for the waste and leakage of money into illegal channels, including customs and tax evasion, and the suspicious expansion and pumping of the real estate sector, which is not less than $ 200 million a month, especially in the last five years, indicating Yemen’s late entry into the international system to combat of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Economic researcher Issam Moqbel explains to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the war and its aftermath caused the destruction of the official economic system in Yemen, which enabled the emergence of a parallel economy according to the nature of the ruling , controlling and influential authority. within the geographical scope it manages, while there is a great deal of similarity in the quality of business The projects that attracted the floating funds created by the war from various outlets, many of them illegal.

Moqbel points out that in the early years of the war large funds flowed to specific channels, such as the black market for fuel and currency, exchange companies and electricity, while this money was used in the last two or three years of the war and concentrated in sectors such as real estate, land and commercial investments.
Shopping malls are full of shops and commercial outlets, dominated by shops selling clothes, materials, abayas, bags, accessories, cosmetics and some kinds of electronic, household and electrical appliances.
The owner of a commercial store in one of the major shopping malls in the capital, Sanaa, Fouad Sabri, points out in an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the owners of these shopping malls set a high ceiling for rent, while some insist that he be a partner in a certain percentage in any commercial activity launched in the capital These shopping malls.
As for the clothing retailer, Mustafa Saeed, for his part, he confirms to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the rent for one store varies between $ 500 and $ 1,000 per month, an amount he considers excessive, in light of the turbulent and volatile market situation and the great challenge it poses to such activities, commercial and investment. On the other hand, an investor in such businesses and investment sectors, who prefers not to be named, denies being promoted regarding these projects, believing that a large part of them are private investments for investors who are within the framework of the law work. and a category of expatriates and not in them Any suspicion related to the war.
It highlights the development and economic role that such businesses and projects have created to absorb a large number of manpower, which has been an important sideline for Yemeni families, many of whom lost their sources of income during the war years.

Clothing retailer Mustafa Saeed, for his part, confirmed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that rents for one store range between $ 500 and $ 1,000 a month.

It is noted, like “The New Arab” monitors, that the expansion of such investments in the commercial sector has not affected the shelters for low-income people represented in popular markets, forestry shops for used clothing and street vendors on the sidewalks.
Citizen Imad Al-Akhali told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that prices are very high in shopping malls and commercial centers, as if they were designed for a specific group of people who became rich during the war years.

Mastour Saleh, a resident of Sanaa, in turn told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the clothes of three children may require a budget of no less than 100,000 riyals (a dollar = about 1,000 riyals) in the case of shopping in such commercial sectors, shopping malls and centers, an amount you can not afford.It is provided by many low-income families who strive as much as possible to provide the necessary food and consumer needs .
The large commercial malls reached secondary cities and governors like Ibb and Ma’rib in central and eastern Yemen, which made them very popular due to the fact that these two governors host a large number of displaced persons from different Yemeni regions.

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