The governor of Ta’iz, Ali al-Mamari, recently described the economic and military conditions of Ta’iz in an interview with Farea al-Muslimi of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. The Houthis stormed Ta’iz in 2015, and fighting between Houthi-Saleh forces and local resistance groups supported by the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition has continued since. The Houthis control Ta’iz’s industrial areas of major economic activity, and in order to keep control of these revenue-generating areas, the Houthis blockade and shell Ta’iz. Al-Mamari details how the central government, particularly the Central Bank of Yemen, neglects Ta’iz - and how the lack of funds contributes to the deteriorating security, education, and public health situation.
According to Governor al-Mamari, the central government and the governor of the Central Bank obstructs financial support to Ta’iz. He states that in a meeting with government ministers, other ministers believed that the government should only send money to liberated areas, excluding Ta’iz. Furthermore, the Central Bank consistently refuses to send enough money to pay for the salaries of all the government employees. Chronic underfunding has devastated Ta’iz; there is no money to pay for security forces or teachers, and Al-Mamari feels as if he is “begging from the government.” Ta’iz is forced to focus on crisis management with the small amount of money it receives, leaving development issues such as the environment, waste management, and clean water ignored.
Of course the role of the local authority might be more war-oriented than development oriented. Throughout a year and half we only demanded salaries. We didn’t dare to dream of saying we need operational budgets for construction, water or electricity projects. At a time when people are not receiving their salaries, and we are unable to demand an operational budget. Our offices work at minimum capacity. Ta’iz is living through a time of war and so crisis management is the most prominent form of administration.
The security situation is exacerbated by the UAE’s hesitance to support local forces. Al-Mamari states that the UAE falsely fears that supporting fighting groups affiliated with Islah party, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, will empower Islah to take control of Ta’iz after the war, and so armed forces “are not provided the capacity that could enable them to achieve significant battlefield victories.” Ta’iz’s armed forces are severely undersupplied compared to Houthi-Saleh forces; Houthi-Saleh forces have hundreds of tanks, while Ta’iz only has ten. Additionally, its forces consist of young men with little training and few armaments.
There is no doubt that humanitarian needs are grave, but over the past year the loudest voices in Ta’iz are asking us to save them from violent groups and other security issues. The humanitarian aspect is a severe need, but there were at least active hospitals and [humanitarian] organizations, but the security sector was nonexistent in Ta’iz.
Furthermore, although the UAE has liberated the port of Mokha from Houthi-Saleh forces and has restored electricity to it, the UAE has not transferred or activated the port--and thus Ta’iz is deprived of a significant amount of potential money from trade. Ta’iz’s economic and humanitarian conditions are dire: only three out of seven hospitals are functioning, children are unable to go to school, and thousands of people have been displaced. The slow military progress and struggling economy, disregarded by the central government and coalition forces, have crippled Ta’iz.