Cabinet reshuffle & change of policies [Archives:2007/1040/Opinion]

April 9 2007

BY: Mohammed Al-Qadhi
I understand that the change of the government should have taken place right after the presidential and local elections last September in order to create a hope for the people in the possibility of change. It is not, of course, a change for the sake of changing faces. It is rather change of policies and mechanisms of functioning of the government ministers that we are aspiring to see.

The decree of President Ali Abdullah Saleh naming Ali Mujawar as a new prime minister comes to address international pressure on the political regime to introduce drastic reforms. Yes, this is not just the demand of the international donors who promised to channel over $4 billion at the London conference last November but also of the Yemeni citizens who hope to see the presidential promises coming true.

However, the outcome has been disappointing because Saif Al-Asali who started cracking down corruption in the ministry of finance, has been removed and given the industry and commerce portfolio. The man who now commands the respect of everybody rejected the new ministry as he felt that he lost his post because of his stiff measures to address corruption issues. He was victimized so as to appease the influential figures who were annoyed by Al-Asali's policies. This really creates doubts about the readiness and willingness of the regime to handle serious reforms.

Change of persons or names is not enough to show the international community that there is a will to reform. What matters is having an institutionalized system that can operate professionally, with accountability and transparency. Mujawar and his cabinet members need to have enough power and privileges to operate without any influences either from the cronies around the president or any other influential figures who always thwart all efforts of reform.

The reshuffled cabinet will not be able to address major headaches facing Yemen like corruption, poverty, unemployment and other sorts of such stuff unless its members are competent enough and have strong support from the president himself, particularly those ministers whose portfolios are concerned with implementing drastic reforms. This is because they will have to challenge some big guys at the power centers who are targeted by such kind of reforms. They need also to feel that in return of the political backup they get, they will be held accountable for any wrongdoing or irresponsibility. I was a bit optimistic that the new cabinet is meant to do so but after the change of the finance minister, I am not hopeful about the ability of the cabinet to address our major challenges.

We have written about the potentials of change several times and in different occasions. But, no concrete results have been seen out of cabinet changes or reshuffles. Therefore, I guess that the political regime with its cabinet is facing a serious test of their capability and competence to bring in tangible reforms. Reforms are at this critical situation urgent and indispensable and can not be postponed any more.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.