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Assessing Oil and Non-Oil GDP Growth from Space: An Application to Yemen 2012-17

Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

This paper uses an untapped source of satellite-recorded nightlights and gas flaring data to characterize the contraction of economic activity in Yemen throughout the ongoing conflict that erupted in 2015. Using estimated nightlights elasticities on a sample of 72 countries for real GDP and 28 countries for oil GDP over 6 years, I derive oil and non-oil GDP growth for Yemen. I show that real GDP contracted by a cumulative 24 percent over 2015-17 against 50 percent according to official figures. I also find that the impact of the conflict has been geographically uneven with economic activity contracting more in some governorates than in others.