A New Map of Yemen?

In an attempt appease anti-government protestors Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for the drafting of a new constitution. Saleh has already announced he will step down in 2013. Reuters reports that Saleh has also announced a plan to "regroup Yemen's 22 provinces into larger regional blocs…this would allow wealthier provinces to support poorer ones." The move is in keeping with Saleh's interest in infrastructure development. Saleh has earned the moniker Ali al-Tariq or "Ali of the Road" for his drive to build new roads and other infrastructure projects  in Yemen. The anti-government opposition reacted negatively to this announcement seeing it as political gerrymandering. A map of Yemen's airports and coasts suggest that only four provinces currently are both landlocked and do not contain an airport. Two them are northern provinces where the Houthi rebellion against Saleh's government is located.

From an economic perspective Saleh's idea is an interesting one. Global development expert Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion notes that being a landlocked country is a poverty trap. The poorest countries in South America, Africa, and Asia are all landlocked. The problem also appears on domestic level as well. In the United States the landlocked states are poorer than the coastal ones. None of the Arab League members are ofcourse entirely landlocked. Saddam Hussein launched the Iran-Iraq war in part to ensure Iraq's continued access to the sea.  Yemen has remapped its provinces before ofcourse and it is not the only Arab state with landlocked provinces as this map makes clear.