After 26 years, poverty distresses Yemen,In the era of president Saleh, great economic growth [Archives:2004/755/Business & Economy]

July 15 2004

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
Since president Ali Abdullah Saleh has assumed power as president when he had been chosen by the People's Constituent Assembly on 17 July 1978 as president of Yemen and commander in chief of the armed forces, the country has been witnessing great economic and developmental changes the importance of which increased after the unification of the two parts of Yemen in 1990 and discovery of more oil and some mineral wealth.
Features of the president's achievements emerged in designing the five-year plans for comprehensive development that concentrated on paying attention to agriculture, the fish wealth, the building of Mareb Dam, and oil and gas excavation. Yemen has thus become producing over 465 thousand barrels of crude oil per day and possessing a huge reserve of natural gas amounting to 16.7 trillion cubic meters.
The president has also given attention to building projects of infrastructure such as roods, airports, sea ports, electric power, cable and wireless communications and the Free Zone in Aden.
The president during his term of office has adopted a policy of openness, free market, implementation of a program for economic, financial and administrative reform in addition to taking care of expanding educational, health, water services as well as the welfare of the poor social segments.
The population of Yemen increased from 12.8 million in 1990 to around 19 million people in 2004. Woman birth rate dropped to 5.9 births for each woman and infant fatalities to 9.8 out of each thousand births.
But the population increase has contributed to the increase in those capable of work, from 15 years upwards, to 9.3 million peoples in 2000compared to 7.6 million in 1995 and the number of those suffering from unemployment increased to 509 thousands in 2000 and the proportion of the unemployed has reached to 62.8% while the illiterate proportion of the workforce amounted to 48%, of which 37% females and 83% males. The total number of those who cannot read and write amounted to 66.2%.
The chilled labour proportion (ages of 6-14) in this period has risen to 327 thousands in 1995, 49.5% of whom have not joined schools at all.
Nevertheless, university education has seen big growth as the number of government universities amounted to 15 and private sector to 8 universities. The share of technical and vocational education after secondary school amounted to 0.4% out of the total number of those enrolled at all education stages.
The agricultural sector has received an increasing attention and care reaching a proportion of 15.3% of the gross domestic product and the convertible industry occupies a proportion of 41%. Despite the success of the successive governments over 26 years of president Saleh's era in the course of structural reforms, it is noted that there is an increase in the spread of poverty phenomenon in the society against a rise in the volume of oil revenues. According to official figures the proportion of poverty in the countryside rose to 45% against 30.8% in the urban areas. Half of the poor centers in Taiz governorate by 18.7% of the total volume of the poor and in Ibb by 16.2%, while in Sana'a the proportion of poverty reaches 11.9% and in Hudeidah 10.2%.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh gave his directives to the government to work out a strategy for poverty combating in the country within a framework of an integrated system aimed at achieving justice in education opportunities and provision of health, water, electricity and rendering care to very poor families through network f social safety and programs of social securities. Therefore the president has encouraged civil society organisations activities for alleviation of poverty and taking part in providing alternatives for rendering assistance for the poor segments in obtaining small loans from banks for the purpose of running income-yielding projects.
Development plans, implemented during the era of president Saleh, have received support of donor countries, organisations and funds that contribute to funding projects of the program of economic, financial and administrative reform.
Under directives from president Saleh, the government of Yemen pursued a policy aimed at preparing the convenient environment for private sector investment but slowness of the investment process is related to some restraints and administrative corruption.
Therefore after 26 years of President Ali Abdullah Saleh assumption of power there have been many achieved gains in the infrastructure and sustainable development projects, but it seems that the social aspect and poverty in particular is in continuous increase.