Ali Mohammed Saeed: “Our Group has undertaken a new investment of US$ 45 million in a grain and flour silos in Aden.” [Archives:1997/40/Interview]
The Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Companies is not just another business. It is an important player in the country’s development process. This is clear from the major investment undertakings, its contribution to national welfare through support of local efforts, and it supports infrastructure construction. This week, the Group has contracted a major local construction company to build the 9 kilometer stretch connecting Taiz city to the peak of Sabir Mountain. The total cost is around US$ 12.5. The money basically comes from HRH Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul-aziz, Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia, as a gesture of goodwill and friendship to the people of Yemen. The Chairman of the Board for the Hayel Saeed Group is Haj Ali Mohammed Saeed, one of the influential men of this country. From the very start of the September 26th Revolution, he was involved. In fact, he was a member of the first Revolutionary Command Council and a Minister in the first government. Today, he is a member of the Consultative Council, and continues to exert positive influence on politics and business. Mohammed Bin Sallam of Yemen Times spoke to him about a number of issues. Excerpts.
Q: Yemen these days is celebrating the anniversary of the Revolution. Could you tell us a bit more about it? A: It was a time of enthusiasm and patriotism. We were young and we all worked for the national interest against the Imam and the darkness her represented. I personally participated in a small way. I was responsible for financial and organizational mobilization. I played this role starting from around 1946-47 with Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Noman and other thinkers and leaders of the revolution in Aden. We fought in two fronts – one against the Imam and his oppression in the north, and the other against British colonial rule in the south. Our followers escaped from side to the other, depending on intensity of oppression. The basic nucleus was in Aden, where we mobilized money and intellectual support for the Revolution. We held continuous meetings, especially in Taiz, with army officers such Ali Al-Badri, Ahmed Al-Washaly, Ahmed Al-Kibsi, Sa’ad Al-Ashwal, Ali Mohammed Al-Khawi, Mohammed Mofarrih, and many others who were involved in the 1962 revolution. In Sana’a, we had contacts with Abdullah Al-Sallal, Abdullah Jozailan, Hassan Al-Amri, Abdulsalam Sabra, and others. We used to meet at the house of Abdullah Al-Baqeen with Sheikh Mohammed Ali Othman, Mohammed Hassan, and Mohammed Abulwasi’ Noman. In Hodeidah, we made contacts with Ahmed Al-Jayifi and Sheikh Alaya. There were many fighters who made great sacrifices and died unknown. We had some setbacks prior to the successful 1962 Revolution. Remember martyrs such as Al-Thulaya and Al-Luqayya and others who died in earlier unsuccessful attempts. Q: Tell us more about the immediate days following the 1962 Revolution? A: Well, as everybody knows, the Revolution was launched on Thursday, September 26th. We had no resources, except our own zeal and rightness of cause. Immediately, a Revolutionary Command Council was set up. This was the highest body of the Republic, and responsible to make the major decisions. I was a member of the Revolution Command Council. I was also a minister in the first government formed by the Republic. I remained in those posts until 1966, when I resigned in order to resume the commercial activities of the Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Companies. But I did retain the title of economic advisor to the President. Later on, I returned to government service, occupying the post of minister of health, and member of the Presidential Council. Still later, I felt I could do better in a job that has a business focus. So, I was named President of the Yemen Bank for Development and Reconstruction. I was also a member of the Shoura Council and the People’s Council. Those were the hard days. Q: The Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Companies is perceived as having made enormous contributions to the national well-being. Can you comment on that? A: The Hayel Saeed Anam Group’s contribution to the national economy is well-known. Our commitment to the national economy is visible through our investments in this country. Our industrial enterprise started in 1970 when conditions in Yemen were still turbulent in the aftermath of the revolution and subsequent in-fighting. Our faith in the future of the country was our major source of motivation. We started with 120 workers. Today, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group employees about 10,000 workers and employees in various parts of the country. We pay over YR 3 billion in annual taxes and fees to the state. The group also heavily invests in charity work. We finance local development efforts. We contribute to the building of schools, mosques, health centers, water projects, road construction, etc. I consider our contribution as a patriotic duty. People are only remembered by their services to their community.
Q: You spoke of continued investments in Yemen. What are the latest of these investments? A: The latest project is the flour mills and silos in Aden for which the President of the Consultative Council has recently laid the foundation. This is the first and biggest project of its kind to be carried out by the private sector in Yemen. It costs around $45 million. There are also plans for a marble factory and a luxury hotel in Taiz as well as other projects which are the pipeline, and which I cannot disclose at the moment.
Q: You are also involved in major development projects for the general welfare of the public. The Taiz-Sabar road project comes to mind. How far has this project come? A: We have signed the construction contract. Work has started at the beginning of this month by the Saba Contracting Company. Equipment and machinery are already in place. We are waiting for the President or his representative to lay the foundation stone for this project. In the meantime, work is in progress.
Q: We heard that the money for this project was not enough. How is the deficit being financed? A: First of all, let me use this occasion to salute HRH Prince Sultan Ibn Abdulaziz, Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, who has provided $10 million to finance this project. Since we received the money, we have put it in a bank savings accounts, thus it has already generated in interest some $500,000. The whole contract undertaking is valued at $12.2 million. As you can see, there is a small deficit. But this is not a problem. The Prince trusted us with the money, and we are honor-bound to make good on his good will. We will see the project through, whatever it takes. By the way, the Prince told me that we can always count on his support if we needed more funding. So, there is no meaning in speaking about a deficit. I also want to state that the gesture of Prince Sultan has found an overwhelming response of appreciation and gratitude among the people of Taiz, in particular, and the people of Yemen, in general. I hope, he will come back one day to say the project he paid for completed.
Q: How long is the construction period? A: The project’s contract period is 20 months. Let us say, it will take two years to complete the whole thing.
Q: You are a member of the Consultative Council (CC). How do you evaluate the role of the CC, so far? A: The CC is still at the beginning of the road. We will be addressing and studying many issues that concern our citizens. All efforts are channeled for the benefit of the people. The issues which the CC has tackled so far are of paramount importance. For example, we have handled administration zoning of the districts and governorates, local government, the water crisis, blood feuds, etc. Credit for founding this council goes to the President of the republic, who saw the need for a body that brings the elders of the nation together. The role played by the Chairman of the CC has also given it more stature. I believe that the members are well chosen from different backgrounds and affiliations. Discussions held at the CC are quite deep and objective.
Q: How do you see Yemen in the next century? A: I see Yemen’s place in the world community with much optimism. It all boils down to working hard based on a vision and good thinking. Thus, we will guarantee a bright future for the country. There are many problems, of course, but they should not frustrate us. Much has been achieved already, in terms of advances in services, industry and agriculture. For those of us who remember the dark days before the Revolution, we do realize how far the nation has come.
Q: Any last comment? A: I want to use this occasion to congratulate the Yemeni people and our President on the anniversary of the Revolution. These are times for celebrating, but they are also an occasion to think about what we can do and where we are headed. It is my sincere belief that it is our destiny to rise up among the peoples of the world and contribute positively to world harmony, peace and progress.