An open letter to Yemen’s Prime Minister:Expatriates need your encouragement [Archives:2003/685/Opinion]

November 13 2003

By Mustafa Naji
[email protected]

I know the Yemeni government is trying to deal with numerous difficulties and problems facing the nation as a whole. Those problems were mostly inherited from the past and several new problems have come up as well. The government’s efforts, I could say, have started to yield tangible results compared to previous governments. I congratulate the new ministers on those achievements.
The government seems to have been trying to encourage international investors to invest in Yemen. Frankly speaking, much effort is required before investors are convinced and encouraged to start investing in Yemen. But then I have always wondered why we can’t start to encourage Yemenis living abroad to invest in their homeland. It is true that this step was always part of the government’s plans and agenda, as we heard a lot of slogans in this respect. However, when we come to reality, we can see little success or achievements in this issue.
I believe the problem lies in the government’s insistence to look into the potentials of bringing huge investments and ignoring small and medium-scale investors. There are millions of Yemenis abroad, and many of them are in the age of retirement. Those are willing to come back to their country. And there is, as I can foresee, a concern that some Yemenis in exile will have to terminate their work because of tense competition and lack of job opportunities. On the other hand, Yemen is still a country unexploited and with great potentials.
We hence need to point out the benefits to those Yemenis. We need to understand what has to be said to those expatriates for them to be encouraged to return to their country and invest there.
A lot of Yemeni prefer spending their lives earnings in the countries where they have lived, without having a solid and concrete long-term investment. Therefore, their new generations face the facts that they have to start from scratch and begin pursuing a new career.
I would like to tell the Prime Minister that he should let the government start giving more importance and concern to the expatriates’ future. Is it really impossible for Yemeni expatriates to contribute to a housing project for example, or small investment projects that would enable them and their families to live a decent peaceful life in their homeland? The government must do its homework in studying such projects and ways to convince the expatriates that their small and medium scale projects are feasible and could be successful. It should provide all the necessary guarantees that expatriates need to start their businesses.
On the other hand, the expatriates need to be convinced and confident that their investments in Yemen will be successful.
I would like to bring forward one example of a potentially feasible project. How about improving facilities at the borders with neighboring countries? Let us take for example of Harad border point between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Can’t our border be utilized to bring facilities and services to travelers from and to each country?
Why not call upon expatriates and companies to invest in such projects, and get the return profit from symbolic fees to be paid by travelers through these points.
I would like the Prime Minister to pay a visit to one of those border points and check to see if the border point is in fact a place where Yemeni expatriates would feel relaxed and comfortable when they enter their country’s territory. He needs to put himself in any expatriate’s shoes and live the moments when entering through this border.
I am confident that such small investments would yield a better reward than other gigantic projects that are usually implemented by international companies and are hence subject to global influence which does not take the country’s long-term benefits into consideration.
I hope that the opinions and thoughts in this article will reach our government and Prime Minister, whom I hope will act accordingly and bring the change deeply needed.