Propane Shortage Continues in Yemen, Finger Pointing Ensues

Facing a severe shortage of propane or "cooking gas," Yemenis have lined up for hours for a refill. (image: Yemen Times)

This much can be agreed upon: The propane cylinders that most Yemenis rely on for cooking are not making it to the capital. That has led to a severe shortage, quadrupling prices in recent weeks and sending angry protesters into the streets.

But who’s to blame for the scarce supplies? It depends on whom you ask. Fingers are being pointed at rural tribesman, greedy gas dealers, and scheming politicians.

The problems begin at the source. The country’s cooking gas is produced in the province of Maarib and shipped around the nation. But in recent weeks, tribesman in rural areas have intercepted shipments of gas cylinders to foment unrest, and urge the establishment of a new government. “We will keep doing this until the situation is settled in [the capital] Sanaa and a new government is established,” one tribe elder told the Yemen Times.

Meanwhile, propane suppliers are reportedly encouraging the gas seizures, since they are the primary beneficiaries of the cooking gas crisis. “This is our season to sell gas and make a profit as market needs increase,” one vendor told the Yemen Observer.

And tribesmen say the government has had a hand in the problem, too. They allege that security checkpoints in Sanaa are blocking gas trucks from reaching their distribution points. Some gas buyers also suspect the current leadership profits off the shortage, and the high prices the gas is fetching on the black market. “The government gets the extra money to pay its supporters who take part in the pro-government demonstrations, or to buy allegiance of some tribal chiefs,” one customer told the Associated Press.

Without adequate cooking gas, some Yemenis have complained they have no choice but to eat out for every meal. Which would probably be a treat, if the populace wasn’t so poor. “I need gas for my home otherwise we have to buy food from restaurants. What can I do with my small salary, which doesn’t exceed 30,000 rials [US$140] a month?” one man asked the Observer.

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