A national question [Archives:2006/997/Viewpoint]

November 9 2006

Governments of true democratic countries consult their people whenever they make a crucial or a national decision. Decisions to change the currency, sign an international treaty on trade, such as joining the WTO, or to join a collation of countries, such as the GCC, all involve national input. Eventually national decisions and their consequences fall on the people, whether in their business, their study or their day-to-day life.

I deeply respected the Dutch and French because they polled the people on whether to adopt the European Union's constitution last year. I envied them because they gave a say to their people.

In our case the government is looking to join the GCC. Not that this is a bad step or a good one for that matter. What basis has this decision been made and to what extent is the public or their representatives involved? A few days ago Prime Minister Bajamal presented the government's strategy on the development requirements Yemen needs in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. How are these requirements and priorities decided? We were been told at the Foreign Minister's Joint Meeting on Wednesday this plan is based on research and evaluation. I want to see the research so I can share my say. Not only this, how did the government come up with the number of $48 billion dollars as the required funding? And what are the measures of accountability taken to ensure this money is used the way it should? Very less of this information is made available to the public?

Last year, I watched the Jordanian Minister of Finance give a long detailed lecture live on TV to present the country's economy, projects and plans. It was simplified so a common educated person would be able to understand, yet it held so much information. Also there was a question and answer session whereby the audience, who were comprised of different segments of society, explained their doubts and was provided with direct and credible answers. The minister also provided an address and a phone number for future queries and suggestions. Anyone who watched the presentation, or logged into the ministry's website, would be able to use it. I don't know first hand if this mechanism worked or if people used the address to get answers or provide questions, but I was, and still am, overwhelmed with the respect that minister give his people.

“This is about your country, your resources and your future and you need to know. We need you to help us make the best decisions, because this is a national question,” he said.

The Yemeni government should start respecting its citizen's minds and involve them in the decision making process, especially regarding issues of national and international scopes.