Government insistent on reform doseOpposition warns of violating civilians’ rights [Archives:2005/805/Front Page]

January 6 2005

The Joint Meeting Opposition Parties have waged a media campaign, which demands that the killer dose of economic reforms included in the government's 2005 budget be rejected. The Cabinet forwarded the budget to the Parliament insisting that the subsidies on oil derivatives be lifted.

The exchange of accusations between the opposition and the government has mounted, following the attack on the Prime Minister Abdulqader Bajammal, when one of the companions pointed his gun at Bajammal saying to him “if you pass the dose on I will shoot you dead and tomorrow we will storm your house”. Many observers believe that Prime Minister Bajammal is likely to be the first victim of the subsidy cuts.

The threats led the Parliament to suspend several sessions and resume its discussion of the budget this week.

In the last few days, newspapers belonging to the ruling Peoples' General Congress (PGC) have attacked those who they have deemed to be fundamentalists at the Iman University. They allege that the Islah party is deliberately sparking chaos and are disrupting reforms that will prevent people from smuggling Yemen's oil derivatives out of the country.

The budget proposed by the government reduces the subsidy on oil derivatives to YR 44 billion. This is down from the YR 120,669 billion allocated to oil derivatives in last year's budget.

The price of diesel will rise to YR35 from 17 per liter, the price of petrol will increase from YR35 to 52.5 per-litter and Kerosene will go from YR22 to 40 per liter. Such increases are certain to meet with public outrage.

In their statement on the 2005 budget, the opposition parties consider the reforms likely to be socially catastrophic. They charge that there was a pre-planned policy to pass the budget despite the government's awareness of the risks. It is the people who will suffer if the parliament approves the proposed budget.

The government is intent on exploiting the power of the ruling party at the expense of the opposition parties that are less powerful within the parliament, but a number of the ruling party members stand by the opposition, and are calling on the government to make real reforms in favor of the people.

Controversy is building as the government has also approved an additional allotment to the budget of 2004 without consulting the parliament. A large number of MPs now believe that the government is weakening the reform process, wasting public money and breaching the constitution and the law.

Some economists say that the 2005 budget will help increase the random expense of money, while other observers claim that passing on the reform dose before the Parliament's January vacation will help the opposition to increase its standing among the public.

Increasing unemployment and corruption, coupled with the fact that the government has been unwilling to punish corrupt figures, also contribute to the lack of trust that the public holds for the reform process.

Public protests are expected to be like those of 1997, when a large group of people took to the streets causing chaos and vandalizing properties in the capital and other cities after subsidies on foodstuffs and oil were lifted. The Yemeni Interior Ministry is on high alert as it prepares its security forces including the Central Security, which is the biggest and is commanded by the President's nephew, to confront any ensuing chaos.