Investing in people [Archives:2003/666/Viewpoint]

September 8 2003

I recall a European friend who asked me one day, “You seem to be talented Yemenis with such a high level of intelligence. When I spoke to a number of children in the streets, I realized they can be scientists, scholars, and future politicians. Why then is Yemen's human resources record so pathetic?”
I was almost speechless as I cannot deny that Yemenis in general are bright people. Many Yemenis have proven to be among the elite in their field of study and work in many Western countries such as the USA, Canada and Britain. Many Yemenis were able to gain distinction grades in classes throughout prestigious universities in the world, yet we still suffer from an incredible low level of human resources and are considered among the least literate countries in the world.
All I said to my European friend is, “It is only a matter of policy and decision makers. It is all in their hands. They can make Yemen a better place if they committed themselves to and took the right decisions.”
I still insist on my opinion that decision-makers are the ones to mainly -not solely- blame for the level we have reached today concerning human resources and education. Furthermore, the economic and political turmoil that was caused to the Middle East because of wars, crises, and other negative developments have also made it even more difficult for us to have a better human resources record.
Then I remembered a discussion I had with one of Yemen's most brilliant electronic engineers. I remember him telling me that the harder he worked the more he was neglected and ignored. “I invented a machine that generates power from air, but no one listens. I am even thinking of leaving the country with my invention to Europe. Perhaps they would give the attention needed.”
Well, as it can be concluded, despite the low educational standards of public schools and universities, some Yemenis do come out as geniuses who could contribute greatly to Yemen's scientific and economic sectors. But it seems that lack of attention and carelessness by concerned authorities has caused many to flee the country and seek recognition abroad.
Yemenis, like Americans, and Europeans are potential scientists, inventors, and powerful individuals who could contribute greatly to humanity if they are given the chance to do so. Arab regimes are unfortunately not aware of the potentials of such people. They lack the vision to the real sources of development and prosperity. They want to be modern countries with strong military and economic bases without supporting education, and giving little attention to the academicians who have ideas and projects that need financial and moral support to go through. But they rarely get it because Arab decision-makers give them the least priority.
Hence, no one should be surprised at finding Arab countries at the bottom of the list of developing countries in terms of human resources and productivity to humanity.
By saying so, all I wish is that we could move forward and have our leaders realize why it is important to give a helping hand to our scientists and academicians rather than spending money on military equipment and machinery.
Let us invest in people rather than spend on weapons. Only then we will avoid falling deeper into uncertainty concerning our future.