It’s All A Matter of Lost Values [Archives:2000/15/Focus]

April 10 2000

Common Sense
By: Hassan Al-Haifi

Any society seeking progress and development would be expected to focus its attention and energies on the physical elements that bring convenience and enhance the social services of the citizens of the country. That is all fine and dandy. But, have we really touched upon the real development we want for Yemen when all we see is continuous seminars and studies and surveys, while a fairly large majority of the population is still undergoing severe poverty and deprivation from the minimal basic services. Even when these services are provided, the truth of the matter is that these services fall short of any meaningful standards and, in fact may be more of a problem than a relief, as was evidenced by the sloppy vaccination work a few years ago where scores of people where inoculated with the wrong vaccination (I believe it was insulin).
In any case Yemen has not been totally unfortunate in being able to harness some fairly large investments in a lot of infrastructure and some economic plants that are worthy of mention, mainly in the petroleum and power sectors. In fact it is often believed that the resources that have been made available over the last three decades would have been sufficient to catapult Yemen into the mainstream of rapidly developing societies. The remittances of close to a million Yemenis working in the nearby Gulf States would have been sufficient to set up a solid capital base from which to finance at least the import of foods and basic commodities for the Yemeni people. When the remittances ceased flowing (in fact they have not fully stopped, as Yemen still obtains from US $ 1Billion to 1.5 Billion a year), oil came to be the number one foreign exchange provider for Yemen, and financial reports of the IMF and the World Bank indicate that the amount that flows from oil should be more than sufficient to make up for the loss of the expatriate remittances.
But despite this, we are seeing Yemen on a generally declining course of development, and the truth of the matter is that we have failed to see how wisely such vast sums of money are being channeled to meet development needs and to provide a cushion of comfort to make up for the irreplaceable oil that is being exploited, God knows for what.
It is really time to start assessing the progress we have made over the last 25 years and to do so objectively, bearing in mind that this means many people would not be pleased at the hard facts of life.
We are going down hill! That seems to be the overall impression one must come across as we see vital resources of the country become unstable or fail to perform to their desired expectations, due to a number of human factors that clearly indicate that somebody has to answer for all this misappropriation of resources and for the unnecessary economic stress faced by the majority of the population. Government and IMF/World Bank reports on Yemen state that we have done some effective reforms on Siam of the basic economic fronts that shape our economy. Inflation is down, and the foreign exchange rate is stable, but for the average citizen, even minds are loosing their stability as people become hard hit with the inability to provide even the most basic needs of the family, let alone try to have a taste of some of the affluence which the authors of these cheerful economic figures seem to be drowned in. Chances are the World Bank/IMF and other donors take it for granted that whatever figures they get from the government are worth the ink they are written with. The truth of the matter is that the figures are either manipulated or just made up to soothe the ears of the task managers in the donor institutions, so that they can continue pouring in their funds to keep our children and their grand children also deprived. It seems that any remaining resources left after these guys, who insist that they are there to serve us and our country, flood the banks in Paris, London and Geneva with whatever they can squeeze out of the public treasury and finish taking everything above and below the earth for themselves. The joke seems to be over now and the Yemeni people have really been taken for a bad ride. They never really could understand how the road got so rugged, when they have never failed in giving the government all the faith, confidence and trust which no regime in the world ever enjoyed. But alas, suckers will be suckers and if you don’t keep your eyes and ears open wide enough, there is no telling how much you will be made a fool of.
That is the tragedy that the Yemeni people must now try to overcome: How to avoid being suckers for another decade? They know for sure that the present ruling regime has let them down and they know that all those guys going all around the world are enjoying themselves at the expense of nobody else but the poor Yemeni people they profess to be representing.
The Yemeni people have a fairly good idea of what is really going on now in the country. Some very mischievous elements have literally taken over just about every facet of public and even private life in Yemen that it has become very difficult to draw the line between good and evil. In fact they have been so confused that it is hard to tell if there is such a thing is good anymore.
What has happened? It is really hard to pinpoint the blame on any one or any group of people involved. The Mafia has grown bigger and broader than one can even visualize, with each one having his more than fair share of the loot. Yet, it is legal and perfectly authorized by law and the courts, that have long ago forgotten that this is the kind of nonsense that they should not allow to coexist with a decent almost innocent people who want nothing more out of life than to have their children thank them for being able to give them all the bread and all the ink and paper they need to culture them and guide them to become good productive citizens.
The most difficult part about this serious shortfall in the management of public affairs is that, it becomes very difficult to teach our children the kind of attitude and behavior that will lead them to become the future productive generations of the country, when they see the quick-rise-to-wealth of people who can’t even write their names. When you teach your children about the great Yemenis of the past who did this and that and who went away from this world not leaving anything for their children to inherit, our friends in the Mafia tell them, don’t worry we will not leave you anything either, just like those folk heroes your parents are telling your about! What we have now is a dog eat dog world, where only power, influence and arm-twisting are the only ground rules for success. It is not a degree from the world’s best universities that will get you anywhere here. It is the degree of Take All You Can University that the personnel who make up the regime frame and hang on their walls.
What is scary then, is that on top of being robbed left and right of all its available resources, Yemen is also being robbed of an even more important treasure: the inherited values that have been etched on the character of the Yemeni people painstakingly over many centuries, as those mountain terraces, that have now become victims of decay and neglect.
So, then what will Yemen have left for the future: no resources, no culture and no values. Never mind all the tangible treasure they have taken away, but the loss of our values is something that certainly signals very dangerous times ahead. Even women’s rights, once the pride of the Yemeni women have become a thing of the past. No one would ever think of rape or assault as being something that a Yemeni woman must take care and guard against. In fact Yemeni men would leave their women for months and years as they migrated here and there to fulfill their duty of providing for their women and children, without a second thought about the assured safety of his women at home. But these days when such values have become a source of sneer for wild kids driving around the latest Mercedes Benz or Discoveries, depending on what day of the week it is, The shock is greater when these wild goons turn out to be the kids of nobody but the prime of the land who have made us forget who we really are and what are we really here for. That is the way they like it, because a people removed of their values and moral substance are so much easier to step on and plunder.