“151”, the mark of our real achievements [Archives:2006/936/Opinion]

April 10 2006

“Well folks, I am pleased to advise all of you that our beloved country is ever so closer to rock bottom, when it comes to development”, said Nabila as she entered her Economics Class at the University of Sana'a.

“What are you talking about Nabila?”, said Faris, who is regarded as the genius of the class.

Nabila answered him in bewilderment: “Did you not see the United Nations' Human Development Report for the Year 2005? It took me hours to find our country's name in the statistical indicators on development that the book has in abundance of. I had hoped initially to find Yemen listed among the countries of 'Medium Development and Medium Income', considering all the great achievements that our TV and newspapers speak of when they praise how much the government has done to improve our welfare and well-being. WE are even in the lowest of the low among the “Low Income and Low Development” achievers. It turns out all that gibberish is no more than hot air. How can anyone stand to hear all the rhetoric about the great progress we have made and the tireless efforts and sleepless nights of our leaders and government officials, as they work so hard to make sure that we land comfortably in Rank 151 among the nations of the world when it comes to development.”

The teacher came in: “Look students this is not a political forum and I will not have my class become a place for political arguments.”

“But Professor Ali, we are strictly talking about economic and human development and it is quite clear according to published reports that Yemen is really got a lot of climbing to do if we can ever hope to reach the status of a truly respectable nation. You can't help but agree that with a rank of 151 among the 177 nations of the world in terms of level of development, we really have a problem”, said Faris as he took his seat, beside Nabila.

“What Faris is saying is that there is really no excuse for us to be such at such a low level of development when considering the ample resources we have and the dynamic nature of our people to achieve progress and success. What have we been doing with all these resources? Where are all those hundreds of billions of Riyals our government is daily blurting out on television that it is spending on development projects?” Nabila was elaborating on her classmate's statement.

“We are not just talking about economics when talking about the Human Development Index that the UN gauges the state of development of nations by, we are talking about standard of living, governance, education, health and all those important factors that make human beings feel they are truly human beings and good citizens catered to by their government. To get into the nitty gritty of the HDI, would you believe that our literacy rate is only 50% and that is really based on government figures, which have a lot to be desired when it comes to accuracy. In terms of some of the individual components of the HDI, we even rank lower that those poor countries that just tail us from 152 to 177”. Again, Faris had no need for anyone to elaborate on what was on his mind.

Nabila was not about to be left without a final comment before the class started: “It is imperative that our government starts to get its act together, because its media is loosing credibility not just on its media assertions, but by the facts on the ground. We have not only 50% illiteracy, we have 50% of the people living below or near the poverty line and that in itself is a time bomb of unpredictable magnitude.

When people are hungry and lack the jobs they need to sustain themselves there is no telling what they will do, especially as they see the gap widen between the haves and the have nots. There is no question about it, corruption is the root of our economic and social demise and unless it is cleaned up, we will continue to race to have our HDI reach the rank of 177.”