Businessmen demand clear tax and investment policy [Archives:2007/1020/Front Page]

January 29 2007

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Jan 28 ) Hundreds of Yemeni businessmen, investors and merchants congregated at the Sana'a Chamber of Commerce in solidarity with Yemeni businessman Jamal Al-Mutareb who was subjected to a harsh media campaign from September 26, the official newspaper of the Yemeni armed forces.

September 26 harshly attacked Al-Mutareb in response to his statements to independent and opposition newspapers.

Al-Mutared expressed his fears of the consequences for the government's policies related to economy and investment with specific reference to the General Sales Tax.

“Yemen still performs badly in attracking investments, and the problem lies with an administrative system that is still clinging to the past rather than shifting into a reality which demands market liberation and an encouragement of investment in Yemen,” according to Al-Mutareb.

He feels that Yemen should be one of the most suitable lands for investment, but that the administrations use government sponsored media to attack and criminalize dissention and that makes Yemen a trying environment for investors.

The chairman of Sana'a Chamber of Commerce, Mahfouz Bashamakh, criticized September 26 for its unjustified attack against Al-Mutareb and he considers the attack to be rashness on the newspaper's part.

Bashamakh also revealed that the finance minister, Saif Al-Asali, directed specialists not to implement the cabinet's resolution to suspend the sales tax. He also said that the presidential directives were a shock among businessmen.

According to Al-Jumhoriah newspaper, Al-Asali also noted that President Saleh, as well as ordering the implementation of the sales tax law, ordered the adjustment of income tax to become 20 percent instead of 25. He also said there was a reconsideration of the income law relating to Zakat, investment exemptions, and customs. However, Al-Asali's statement was not published in other official newspapers.

Bashamakh maintained that the private sector refuses the sales tax collection, hinting that businessmen could have a different position in terms of lowering prices according to the Cabinet's resolution.

“The merchants will not implement the Cabinets resolutions until they are complete,” said Bashamakh.

He further added that businessmen were ready to lower prices after settling upon an agreed resolution with government and ministers. However, the new information seemed frustrating and they are awaiting the outcome.

Bashamakh said it was supposed to be the prime minister speaking about the application of such tax and we feel surprised that the finance minister would use the president's name in this manner.

He inquired why some want contradictions to exist between President Saleh and the Cabinet and wonders whose interests this serves.

“The new sales tax law will cause trade and investment to be concentrated in the hands of very few people and this is what we are afraid of. It will turn all companies into limited ones with small shares in the stock market,” remarked Bashamakh. “Thus, any company from the Gulf, America or Britain can come and buy these companies. We, in turn, become occupied without arms.

“This is the plan of the World Bank and others who conspire against our economy and further to concentrate trade and investments in the hands of a small group and thus deprive ten thousands of people from their income sources.”