Dr. Bafadl to Yemen Times:The government deceives the Council, and the wages strategy is an “April fool” [Archives:2005/849/Reportage]

June 9 2005

Although too much achieved but still many primary factors need to be developed. Among which comes first reconsideration of election system, where proportionality is the most convenient for Yemen. Also women quota is a must not less that 10% of parliament seats. Separation of powers, fighting corruption severely and seriously, more freedom for press and syndicates, more care for fighting poverty, jobless people, particularly universities graduates, currency inflation, and independent local governance by election of governors and constituencies managers.

To unveil facts of the matter the Yemen Times met with Dr. Abdulrahman Bafadl and forwarded to him the following questions:

Q: Fifteen years have passed since the Unity. It is also the age of the democratic experience. What success has it achieved, and what are its impacts on the democratic system?

A: I would like to stress an important matter. It is the principles of this nation. They are the constitution, unity and democracy. There is a defect, if we take democracy as an example. Things need to be adjusted. Each election process is always accompanied by fraud, terrorization and sometimes beating. This could be corrected through practice, and we could do all that by abiding by the constitution and the democratic spirit. Even in the west they say democracy is a bad system, but any alternative will be worse. The output of the fifteen years of our democracy could be weak, but the most important thing is its continuation. The European democracy itself didn't come out of the blues. It came through blood, sweat and tears. There were struggles, world wars and even executions. Our democracy isn't satisfactory, but the margin of the practice it gives could be used to correct it.

Q: How do you assess the parliamentary experience? Is parliamentary monitoring weak or non-existent?

A: It is sure that it is non-existent at all.

Q: Why is that?

A: If you read the reports of the observation and accounting committee, which is a governmental one , you will be shocked by the financial and administrative corruption. I wish we could do that at the parliament. But where is the defect? Is it in the formation of the council?

Directly after the unity there was equilibrium, there was no absolute majority, and I was a minister then, I used to feel scared when I went to the council, with the full attendance of all 301 members. Everyone would participate and criticize. It was a real parliament. Unfortunately the second parliament was week and the two that followed were even more so. If things go this way, we will find ourselves at a loss. There should be transparency in the electoral process and there should be international monitoring. The mechanism itself should be changed. The proportionality system is the best. In my constituency, my votes are always higher. If you count all the votes in the 1997 elections, where we were ten, I succeeded with a difference of 500. No doubt the others together have got more votes than me. You tend to cancel their votes in this system, but in the proportional system there are no lost votes. Every party will have his real seats according to proportional number it has attained in the elections. In this mechanism no party will have the absolute majority. We will not be in need to move the army units or topple a certain candidate. The election committee also needs reconsideration. It's now an affiliate of the government. It needs to be independent. It could be part of the parliament, for instance the observation and accounting system would be stronger if it is a part of the parliament. The administrative system would corrupt any system affiliated to it. Things will certainly change if we could apply all these measures, and awareness would be developed. Take the last elections as an example, in the constituencies where there was international sponsoring the results were better than those in the remote areas.

Q: These are long term suggestions, but let's discuss the eminent situation. You owe the weakness of present parliament to its formation and the mechanical majority, but other members owe it to its chairman authority, what is your reaction to that?

A: Away from political intrigue, I feel that Shiekh Abullah, the parliament's speaker is targeted. This can find its explanation in the suggestions of changing the presidential body of the parliament. Two years were suggested. When I asked why, the reason was that they could go astray and there would be a necessity for change. I said : what about you of the seven year term? What if your electors want to change you? Don't you know that we are all disliked at our constituencies? What about the seven years of the presidency, and those from two to four of the local governance councils? When a report is read before the council, there is always an expression of “and the last word is for the council “. It is the council who votes not the supreme body. It is up to them, if they want to activate the council they should activate the committees. They rarely meet. If they are really activated, it is in their power to form and topple the government. Now the government and the ministers don't fear the council, and they even defy it. They are of the opinion that “the majority is in the pocket”. Ultimately the decision is elsewhere. So where does the defect lie? The real solution is in the participation of all the parties, according to their proportional size.

Q: What is your point of view with respect to the amendments of the regulation- as an Islah Party leader, are you with or against them?

A: We are with the amendments, but we wonder why is the insistence of the every two years change of the supreme body? I suggest that this point is to be applied to Mps, local governance members and the presidential elections not only to the governing body.

Q: Some say the main part of the regulation is to improve the Mps' salaries. which exert an additional burden on the council's budget. how far is that true?

A: I don' t care about the members rights. The important matter is the sponsorship the council should practice on the government and ministers. They should stop the now prevailing anarchy. At the end of the fiscal year. there are violations in every ministry. When we try to compare them with the budget. some would say there is no need for discussion. The file will be closed without voting. Even a member may suggest stopping the discussions because the opposition parties want to exploit it.

Q: At the endorsement of the budget the government pledged to carry out a number of recommendations. and now months after the endorsement. what has the government done with its commitments?

A: Nothing ! These recommendations are a trick ;it is a collaboration with executive body so as to indorse the budget. The recommendations are transferred from one year to another. We always say the excess in the budget is unconstitutional. We remonstrated at the 70billion surplus. then it rose to 110, now it is189or 20% of the budget. This is a belittlement of the parliament. If you add all the surplus plus the budget expenditure it will be about seventy trillion (a trillion has 12 dots). The budget has two sides. the expenditure and the investment sides. The investment side is never discussed. because if this happened. it deprive the government of its thin clothing. because every one will know what projects should be carried out during the year. When Bajamal was a minister of economic planning . and I was a minister. he gave this advice. “I advise you brothers not to table it for discussion. because you will be embarrassed by the members. leave it as a closed book “!. It is strange that he boasts at the end of the year that he has achieved savings in the investment sector. That is because he had spent nothing on the investment. No one can save from investment except our government because it freezes investment.

Q: The Prime Minister said lately he has reduced unemployment and increased foreign currency surplus. What do think of that?

A: I think the prime Minister hasn't a material proof for what he said. A minister I know said his income has dropped by 90%. Because of inflation everything is decreasing. What you buy now for 2 thousand will increase two-fold next year. There is an increase in prices of electricity, telephone and water services. A diplomat told me that we have the highest rate of electricity prices. What development have we achieved if the ex- world Bank representative said on his leaving the country at the parliamentary committee “poverty, and unemployment are terribly increasing in Yemen. The per capita is decreasing. you have no water. where is your reform program?” You can simply proof that what the Prime Minister said has no basis through the public remonstrations that his government faces. The merchants, the private sector, the chamber of commerce have all led demonstrations and demanded his change. They alleged that there is a customs smuggling of 219 milliard. The government knows the smugglers. They say that they are losing while the smugglers are making profit. The merchants joined the people in remonstrations. Now there are a number of strikes. namely university teachers and doctors, added to the unrest among syndicates and journalists. The Prime Minister has no proof in his assertions of the decrease of unemployment. He is faced with a defiance to prove that through the world Bank. We are a symbol of international corruption. He is true in saying that the foreign currency has increased but what is the use?. The dollar is now 192 against the YR and it could reach 200 due to the intended dose and the customs tax. What is the use of that surplus. It is the merchants who Import not the government while it is supposed that they pay in YR and the central Bank covers in dollars , but it does nothing of that.

Q: Doesn't this increase indicate government success?

A: An unexploited surplus is good for nothing. It should be used to back our rial whose deterioration increases inflation

Q: Some economists say the decrease of dollar against the Euro has costed Yemen a loss of 20%of its reserve, is that true?

A: Unfortunately it is true. It is due to misplanning. The investors are now changing from the dollar to the Euro. The dollar is now suffering a depression of 17%. America has now a deficit of 8 trillion. This is due to its violent policy. America is economically deteriorating, and there is danger for Yemen to deal in the dollar. China, Japan and German. are flourishing. People are sure of the Euro because the European address differs from that of America. because it is peaceful.

Q: The government says that the sales tax is for the good of the people and it has exempted many commodities from the tax . The private sector refuses this tax. What is your view of the sales tax?

A: I wonder when someone says the sales tax is for the good of the people. It would have been logical if the citizen receives it. It has levied a tax of 10 % on the merchants. They will see to it that they gain 20% instead. It will all be a burden on the citizen. Bajamal declares that they want investment in Yemen and on the other hand exposes the merchants; That is a contradiction. The sales tax is not for the good of the citizen. What is good for the citizen to curb corruption and smuggling which will save funds for investment.

Q: On the petroleum issue, the government considers 30$ a barrel in the budget while it is sold for 45$. This makes a row in every budget. Why can't the parliament solve this problem?

A: The government doesn't listen to the parliament. When they insisted on 30$ the parliament made a decision that the difference should go to a special account in the central bank, which should be used only according to consent of the parliament . Every time they use it with extraordinary decisions. The abstinence to make an account and the use of the surplus without the consent of the parliament is an unconstitutional act. The government doesn't fear the parliament. It is proud of despising it. If we want to call the government for accountant the assembly will say you are opposition and you want to embarrass the government and foment a crisis.

Q: The declarations oil depletion in Yemen has raised concern. How do you evaluate that in Islah party?

A: I met Minister of Oil and Minerals a few days ago. They declared new oil finds. I asked him how could that be while you say that oil will deplete. He told me if we didn't say it, others will. The government now denies that it says petroleum is increasing. I believe you heard of the scandal of sectors 53and18. What do you expect of such a government when a corruption like this happens. It boasts of agreements that it couldn't defend. The parliament cancelled these agreements and faced defiance from the company. This means this company is stronger than the parliament. Who is behind it?This will be a great blow to Yemen if the parliament agrees.

Q: How do you asses investment prospects in Yemen. What problems does it face?

A: I make an effort to convince investors to come. We have the best investment laws but any one who comes will run away immediately and it is the administrative environment to blame. The Prime Minister once told a story. He told me. “We held conference in London to boost investment. We started to speak. A man from a Gulf country raised his hand. He said I know investment in Yemen very well I invested there :You meet the President and come out very happy. Then the Prime Minister, The concerned Minister, and you will come out happy all along. Then you meet the Rats and they eat you very happily. The Rats have eaten everything in Yemen.

Q: The International Monetary Fund has recently issued a report on Yemen. The report assured the deterioration of all indicators in Yemen through 96-2004, in addtions to declarations made by President of the World Bank about Yemen. This aroused concern among many. What do you say on this assessment in Islah party?

A: The World Bank is too late in issuing his report. It should have been years ago. The prime Minister blames us and says that we participated and we are responsible. Yes we participated. but we withdrew when we saw that things are not going on in the right track. We agreed on a comprehensive program of reform, which will lift people's suffering. It addresses combating unemployment, poverty and the solution of water problem. Now we are experiencing water crisis. They achieved nothing of the program we agreed upon.

Q: The government has lately signed an agreement with the International Contractors to build an electric gas station with a capacity of 400mega. Would this increase electricity price for the citizens?

A: On the contrary, if they meant it. The problem of the Yemeni gas station is one of the queerest fables. Every year the government speaks about the liquefied gas and nothing is done. We started it at the Al-Attas era before Oman and Qatar. They finished and marketed theirs and we are still lagging. The corruption also is to blame. The right start was that of Faisal Shamlan. He made an international bid in London. Total and Hunt succeeded. Hunt asked for a proof that the gas is Yemeni. We made an agreement with Total and Surface ,75% for Total and 25% for Yemen upon the condition that Total invests and markets. Faisal resigned. They accepted an agreement 180degrees opposite to that. The surprise is that Hunt, Hexon and Hyundai will have 38% and Total 36% and Yemen will have the rest. Total said it won't be responsible for marketing in such conditions. They made this strange deal and Japan is exempted. They accepted Korea instead of Japan that has a tremendous purchase capacity but they accepted Korea. It is because Korea has a branch of Hunt and Hexon. The American company will have the majority of 38%, and Total 36%. Five years have passed and they made an office in Paris asked for Yemeni gas for millions of dollars but it completely failed. The period expired but the government renewed contracts with them without any conditions. Malaysia has presented an offer to buy the gas after signing. It stipulated 30% of the project value and entered as a share holder with its own money. Minister of Planning and International Cooperation said that this is not true. Minister of Oil and Minerals says it is true. Whom are we to believe? We are delayed in the gas project and the corruption also is to blame. If the station is executed, the prices will drop 30%

Q: You accuse the government of doing nothing but the government has tabled the wages strategy. What is your view of the wages strategy? Some say it is for the good of the employees, but others say it is just a delusion.

A: This strategy is an April fool. The proof is that it isn't in the budget. We raised it in the council and then they felt their fault with the terrible dose at hand promising to raise price of diesel up to 800 YR, that is more than 100%. We remonstrated that it is higher than the petrol. The Prime Minister said that there is no problem. “We will raise the price of petrol to 1050 YR”. This strategy is a comedy. It will be prepared and studied by technical experts who resorted to form a committee to find an execution mechanism, and then back to the Cabinet. This will take five years. Besides, all the people are not government employees. The increase in the basic salary usually does not exceed 500 to 1000YR, compared to the skyrocketin prices of the market , and you will find yourself paying more from your own pocket.