Corruption and Poverty [Archives:2001/33/Business & Economy]

August 13 2001

Abdul-Kareem Al-Khaywany
Head of politics Dept. At. Al-Haq party
While poverty is dramatically expanding in Yemen and is making more people suffer, public services are witnessing a continuous decline due to insufficient infrastructure. This is mainly due the government new policies that double burdens on citizens.
Unwilling to hear the groaning of a starving population and to see numerous people sleeping on streets and under balconies and bridges, the government decided to increase by 70% the price of the diesel. As a result of such irrational decision, prices of essential goods went up by 100%. This evidently will raise the number of people living under the poverty level and is the last step towards demolishing middle class of the society. In short, Yemen is divided into two classes: one composed of a few rich people, and the remainder who is starving and lives under the poverty of level. The funny thing is that the government made unreasonable excuses to the new polices of starvation and claimed that they were polices of financial reforms. How foolish to repeat empty terms made by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund without fully comprehending their consequences. We must learn from those countries which left the door open for both organizations and suffered at the end all kinds of destruction, poverty and disturbance. Analyzing the excuses brought forward by the government shed light on how our government is fooling the Yemeni society and making it accept plans of economic decline instead of reform.
1- Among the excuses that the government used to implement its policies of starvation is that the price change is believed to raise materials and public services costs. So, instead of supporting the new diesel cost price, helpless citizens should renounce to do so and acknowledge that this is no more than price reforms.
2- Raising the price of diesel would limit its utilization and therefore reduce its impact on the environment. Is not that a joke?! It is abnormal that because of that the population alone would support the new rise when users of diesel-powered engines are going to raise costs of their products. Environment has never been on the government agenda of concerns, otherwise it would not permit insecticides, dangerous chemicals and sewerage on streets and markets in every major city.
3- Smuggling diesel out of the country is the government’s- rather than the citizens’ responsibility. The suspension of government’s support of diesel is not an appropriate solution. Moreover, the authorities should confess either that smugglers are outsmarting them or that they benefit from diesel smuggling.
4- The country does not offer an effective tool to control market prices and to prevent the greedy merchants from monopolizing vital materials urgently needed by the population. The government officials should also not be the merchants and the men holding the reins of power at the same time. What will happen if a merchant is given the authority to produce then set standards and prices while having the last word on decisions to force markets to yield to his demand.
All these excuses produced by the government are really weak and ridiculous and have led to this economic crisis. In fact, the corruption factor was the dominant force in this new policy.
Based on a corruption protected and rapidly spreading, how can we expect to generate positive results by any reform or economic programs implemented by the government?
Bills worthy billions of Yemeni Rials have been accumulating at the ministries of electricity and water and telecommunications and have been postponed year after year because some senior officials or so-called social figures have been refusing to reimburse them. Their refusal, not based on financial harshness, is a sign of mental and moral deficiencies. The helpless government is not dealing with such violators of the law but is rather adopting measures strongly hitting the population. Had corruption at the competent authorities such as customs unit at the and taxes bureaus be so rampant, national income would dramatically rise and would render the drastic government’s policies useless and therefore reduce the population suffering..
According to the official annual reports, financial expenses have been exploding in the past years. This should be solved before it is too late. The figures make also clear that the government collects revenues from the population and spends them at his convenience. This belief should deepen the roots of corruption, shake stability and hinder any desired development policy.
Aspirations of Yemeni citizens are very simple and never go beyond a minimal level of available opportunities. His dream is basically an appropriate investment in his country’s natural resources, along with other possibilities to be included in the development process instead of being confiscated by a few officials.
The country’s economic corruption is really a complex issue. It is hard to suggest solutions in few lines as the essential problematic elements are: a protected corruption, the misuse of national resources, and the total absence of an official planning strategy.