How it feels to be the least developed Asian country:Does anyone care? [Archives:2003/653/Viewpoint]

July 24 2003

It saddened me tremendously to realize that Yemen continued to fall down the list in terms of human development. The UNDP Human Development 2003 revealed that Yemen is the least developed Asian country for this year. It shows Yemen on the 148th spot after being in 144 last year, and in the 130 spot the year before.
We can sense that things are not going to the better in terms of human development. There may be slight improvements in cleanliness and in other artificial things, but the education system continued to deteriorate, so did the health sector and the other civil services.
Trying to figure out why we have become so low in ratings in terms of human development we will realize that the main reason behind is clear in the title of the report. We simply did not develop humans. Our streets may be cleaner now, but that is not because our people have become more aware of cleanliness, but rather because we deployed thousands of workers to clean up the streets virtually every few hours. As for citizens, they continue to throw garbage in the streets carelessly even more than before. We need to realize that a short term solution like bringing cleaners is much less powerful than raising education and awareness standards of the citizens themselves.
Today, we are witnessing in a staggering annual rate of population growth exceeding 3.6%. This in itself is a time bomb that threatens to explode within the few coming years to lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. I do not want and I cannot image in Yemen becoming one of the African countries with famine and starvation everywhere you go.
After all, Yemen has resources and all the means to flourish and advance. Yet it is kept in the least developed countries category.
What is even more concerning for me is that officials don't seem to get it and take things seriously. It seems that they are living in another world. Is it their air-conditioned fancy cars that make them unable to smell the sewage system or feel turbulence while driving on ruined streets in the city? Or is it their extra luxurious house complexes that let them live in another world? Or perhaps it is their frequent travels to Europe and elsewhere for work and vacation that prevent them from realizing the true situation we are in.
When the government ministers took the oath a few months ago, did they realize what they are getting into? Do they know that Yemen may face a water crisis in 10 years, may have the population doubled in 20 years, and may become a totally improvised state with little oil or energy resources and almost 100% of its population below poverty line in 50 years?
When I heard the news about our rank in the report, and when I realized our officials said that Yemen is going on the right path towards development and accomplishments I thought that there must be something wrong in how our officials think. Either they are trying to fool the people and the world, or they are themselves being fooled in not being aware of the true situation.
Just as I thought that they would never find an excuse for being in such a low rating, I received a comment by one of our officials saying that globalization is to blame.
Well, if we still cannot admit that we have been committing mistakes for so long and need to fix them, I guess it will be quite hard for us to have them corrected, leading to an unpleasant feeling of “I just hope I won't live until the day when Yemen is ranked the least developed country in the world!”