Leaders Magazine features investment opportunities in Yemen [Archives:2004/764/Business & Economy]

August 16 2004

Interviewed by Shaker Al-Molsi
Yemen Times Staff

Mr. Patrick J. Gillis, President International of Leaders, global American quarterly magazine specializing in economy and business, is currently visiting Yemen.
Leaders Magazine is now enjoying its 27th year since its establishment in 1977, having 40,000 readers world wide, and is read by heads of state and cabinet members in every country of the world. It's readers mainly include chairmen and CEO's of multinational corporations, leaders of business banks, investment firms, and firms of human endeavor. In the following interview with Mr. Patrick, we are presented with many interesting facts about the investment reality in Yemen, and are given insights into prospective developments.

What is the purpose of your current visit to Yemen?
First of all Leaders Magazine in one of its issues in 2000 featured a special report on the country and its leaders. Now, we are invited back to feature a brand news special report on Yemen, which will be featured in our January 2005 issue. During my short stay here, my agenda includes meeting government and business leaders of the country who will discuss investment opportunities in Yemen, and to allow the leaders of this country to share with our readers why they should come here to invest, and do business. This is the primary purpose of our special report.
There will be a wide spectrum of leaders from Yemen among whom are HE the President, the Prime Minister, several Cabinet members such as ministers of culture and tourism, agriculture, industry and trade, fishery wealth, and a few other ministers. I will also be meeting leaders of the Yemeni business community both Yemeni-based companies and foreign investor-based companies.
My schedule covers a visit to Hadramout to meet the governor and meet the business leaders from that part of Yemen, as well as a trip to Aden to interview the governor, the officials of Aden Free Zone and of course the business leaders. I am working with our colleague here in Yemen, Mahbub Ali, Chief of the Yemeni journalist Syndicate, who is also a Leaders Magazine's Middle East representative. He is doing with me the interviews and securing all the materials for the special report.

What encouraged your doing a special report on Yemen in 1999?
Leaders Magazine is mailed to our readers in every country around the world. We make a concerted effort to share with our readers information on investment opportunities in countries in every part of the world. There has been no region in the world where Leaders has not published investment guides on countries throughout its 27 years of publication. So when the opportunity came to us in 1999 to come to Yemen, Leaders had up until that time never featured a report on Yemen. We thought it would be an excellent opportunity to share with our readers information on a country that is not well known in the world primarily due to distance. Besides, Yemen is strategically and geographically positioned next to a very large neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which dominates publicity. So Yemen and many other countries in the middle east- Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, and others- do not receive as much publicity as Saudi Arabia does. But Leaders Magazine has conducted reports on all of those countries and many others in the Middle East. So we try to cover the world.
I came back because the leaders of Yemen expressed to us that they were pleased with the first report and wished us to come back to feature Yemen again. The leaders of the country do recognize that Yemen has the ability to overcome the misperceptions we have been talking about.

How was the response to the first report? And how will you go about this report?
It was very good. Leaders, unlike other publications, does not take editorial license. In other words, I do not come here to write about my opinions of the country. As we conduct interviews, we keep a pretty simple formula: we want to share with our readers, for example, why a country has decided to invest in Yemen. For instance, when I interview the Hunt Oil Company, I will ask them why they chose Yemen to invest and why they have maintained their investment here for many years. Then I will ask them what their impressions are about doing business in Yemen; what they find good about it; what they find may be challenging about it. Also, I will ask them about their future plans as well as their current activities. Finally, I will ask them about their advice for our readers about doing business and investing in Yemen.
Our framework does not involve gossipy things, political intrigue, or rather the personality type of story. We allow each leader that we interview, to share with our readers their own words about their ministry, company, or why they are active here and doing business.
With the head of state and other high ranking officials, we allow them to share their vision, what has been happening in their country, and things they foresee will happen in coming years, in addition to bilateral relations with other countries. I ask the President about Yemen's efforts in the global war on terrorism.
So, we keep it very simple, the World appreciates our style that it is different from other publications. It is very focused on those types of questions and we do not inject our own editorial view or personal opinion into the reporting that we do.

What do you think of the development process in Yemen in comparison to its state in your previous visit?
I think it is very good. Infrastructure has improved since I was here five years ago. People here are very optimistic about Yemen's future, because oil prices are upright now. This is helping Yemen's energy industry. I talked to some tourism officials who are optimistic that Yemen's tourism will be on the increase. The ministries of agriculture and fish wealth, for example, are also very optimistic about their industries here. I met some officials in the banking and financial services who were encouraged and said Yemen is a rising and promising market in the Middle East. I have been to some 70 countries over the past ten years and Yemen is one of my favorite countries to come to. People are very nice here. There is a desire I detect among the leaders of the country and business to really keep moving forward to attract more investments and investors to the country. Indeed they would not be supporting these kinds of project if they were not optimistic about Yemen's future.

How is the image of Yemen in the western press and does that affect investment?
Well, you know in the aftermath of the USS Cole incident in Aden and the ongoing battle against global terrorism, Yemen in the western press, television and newspaper press primarily, only receives publicity when something negative is attached to it. CNN which you receive here made a big deal of the USS Cole incident, the fact that Osama bin Laden has family ties here in Yemen, and that there are al-Qaeda terrorists who allegedly use Yemen as a hiding place or a place to gather. So, the western mindset about Yemen is viewed with that in mind. I believe there is very little information that Americans and people from North America know about Yemen. I think its one of those countries that do not receive a lot of positive publicity that has to do with investment opportunities. Thus, that is the purpose of the Leaders Magazine's second effort: to share with the World's readers information about Yemen, as this publication is sent to every country in the world, read by every head of state, cabinet member, prominent CEO, and investors in every country of the world, solely the movers and shakers of capitals.
But, there are not, to my knowledge, many international publications that go to the extent that Leaders has, in sharing with the World's leaders community what Yemen has to offer in the way of investment opportunities. So, from the United States' standpoint, I believe that President Saleh has made it very clear that Yemen is an ally to the US and other countries in battling the threat of global terrorism, and in fact, the reality of global terrorism.
The President has demonstrated again that Yemeni security forces, police, and counter-terrorism forces are arresting and cracking down al-Qaeda terrorists. Again that does not receive enough publicity in the western press. From everything I have read and learned about the relationship between the US and Yemen, Bush's administration is very pleased with the cooperation it has received from President Saleh and other government leaders.

Can you share with our readers the type of US investment in Yemen and what is the impact of terrorist attacks on them?
I will give you two examples. Hunt Oil is a long time investor in Yemen. It is a very prominent longstanding petroleum company based in Texas in the US. The Hilburton Company, which US vice president Dick Chiney used to be its chief executive, is very active too in the oil sector. Both are prominent US companies that I will be meeting with.
I have heard from the chairman of the Yemeni Refining Company and minister of industry and trade that there has been a reluctance on the part of US investors to invest in Yemen in the aftermath of USS Cole incident and because Yemen has undeservedly in my view been tagged as a country where it is dangerous to go or to operate business. I have been here twice now and have talked to other Americans residing here. We have never felt insecure. Here people treat us very well. So, I believe that one of the major things that Yemen has to overcome in the coming years is this perception. Generating more publicity that Yemen is indeed an ally in the war against terrorism will improve the mindset of US investors who want to invest but have hesitated because of the current publicity.

What are your expectations about the future of cooperation between Yemen and the US?
I think it will be greatly improved if public relations and information is improved about Yemen's not being a safe haven for terrorists for example, or being a dangerous place to do business in. That is simply is not the case. Every minister and every high level leader in Yemen whom I talked to both in 1999 and this year have made it very clear that US investors are very welcome. They are encouraging and doing everything they can to make sure that if an investor from the United States wants to invest in Yemen, he will be most welcome to do so. They will even go the extra mile to see that every opportunity is made to try to get them to come here.

What are other fields of cooperation between Yemen and the US?
There is a bilateral trade and exchange in the Yemeni community in New York City where I live, for example. There are many students that go from Yemen to study in the US and come back to Yemen to their careers. So there has been and will continue to be a relationship in education, trade, and business between the two countries. I have given you some examples in the energy industry where prominent US companies are active. And every minister that I talked to said that there are good ties between his ministry and the US counterpart ministry, and that efforts are ongoing to increase trade and economic ties. But I think the thing that must be overcome is the misperception that developed in the US, viewing Yemen as a place that you have to be careful in, because of al-Qaeda and because of what happened to USS-Cole. There are bad apples in every country. It is not just exclusive to Yemen, to Sudan or to any other country in the Middle East. It is not fair for Yemen to be characterized thus. The claim that al-Qaeda elements may be hiding or hanging out, is not a reason that business can not be conducted by US investors in Yemen.
We have seen terror attacks in multiple countries around the world. I think the global campaign against terror will be successful as it is being successful now, and the relationship will be strengthened in the long run between the two countries. I predict that Yemen and the US will do lots more business together in the future.