500 more Days and It Is the 21st Century [Archives:1998/30/Viewpoint]

July 27 1998

There are about 500 days left before we go into the 21st century.
Some people will hop, some will crawl, some will get stuck.
Some people know we are moving into a new era. Some nations are aware of this. Some political and economic leaders are aware of this. Unfortunately many are not.
For those who are aware, and for those who are not aware, it is absolutely crucial that we all prepare themselves for the next century. The main source of power and wealth in the next century is going to be knowledge, and the ability to organize it and use it optimally. There are two dimensions to knowledge – education as an overall base, and informatics as a tool for its use is a specialized sense. Therefore, for those who want to prepare themselves, they better address those two issues.
Last week, I was one of a handful of persons asked by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to help in generating change in the system. We are required to address two changes.
– First, an assessment of the people who run the show today; i.e., who does what, and how efficiently. If replacements are necessary, a list of names need to be proposed of individuals who can do a better job.
– Second, an assessment of present policies and approaches; i.e., what we do, and why we do it. If changes are necessary, a list of alternative policies need to be proposed of ideas and issues which can improve performance of the system.
We were told that this matter has to be given top priority because of its urgent nature. I felt the President was in the group that is aware that the 20th century is in its final days, and that there is need to prepare for the 21st century. He is asking for help, from people he believes can help.
That is a good step from the President. Now it is up to those of us who have been asked to advise, to give him the best we got.
I am not at liberty to discuss my proposal to the President, but it is clear that the proposals should include:
1. In my opinion. a good official in government is a person who can survive well is society, even if he/she were outside government. Those individuals whose stature, prestige and fortunes are directly dependent on their government post, are the ones who should be kicked out. After all, we want people who are worth something on their own, not as government officials.
2. Financial integrity is high on my agenda. People with loose morals who are looking for opportunities to steal or to ask for handouts should not represent us.
3. Human resource development is a key factor for our future. The future of Yemen is in education, vocational training, continued re-education and re-training, family planning, health services, etc. These sectors have to be re-structured so that they enhance self-confidence, responsible behavior, and the ability to do productive work among our people.
4. We need to address qat, the tribal system, urbanization, the role of the media, youth issues, water and the environment, etc.
The trick is to find instruments/tools to achieve those goals. You got ideas?
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher