Letters to the Editor [Archives:1999/27/Letters to the Editor]

July 5 1999

Dear Editor,
I completely concur with the view set forth by Mohammed Bin Gabr. Indeed, Yemen is poor in natural resources and rich in human and cultural resources, and steps must be taken to develop these. Economic development and reform progress is a painfully slow and invisible process to the majority, but must be undertaken to guarantee a secure and stable future. I would ask the people of Yemen to look to several historical precedents, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran for guidance. Around the turn of this decade, a series of decisions were made in the Kingdom to implement industrial reform and to take measures to improve and strengthen the nation’s heavy industry. This was done because of fluctuations within the oil market, which the economy there was heavily dependent on. Oil revenues were then utilized in the building of factories, further development of the telecommunication and transportation infrastructure, while government subsidies were reduced to help pay for it and to correct budget shortfalls. The same course was also plotted in Iran by the late Shah and his father, that is to pour extensive monies into this exceedingly costly and arduous undertaking, all the more so because any actual benefits from these actions take many years to come to fruition. The political instability and economic chaos that followed the revolution there, governmental infighting, mismanagement of state-run industry, and the protracted war with Iraq led to hard economic times, yet Iran both survived and prevailed. There lies no doubt that it was not only the tenacity of the Iranian people, but the presence of this heavy industry left over from what the Shahs had built that enabled Iran to recover. It was known at that time that putting these long-term investments into action would produce economic hardship to the people and that suffering would result, but there was little other choice. For Iran (and the Kingdom) to move into and thrive in the modern age, what must be done is to follow other historical examples of imitation, such as the first true exchanges of culture that followed the Islamic conquests. After suffering several nasty setbacks in Egypt at the hands of Napoleon, the Vizier decided to import military strategists and to copy Western military weaponry and methods due to their proven success on the battlefield. This accounts for the first “opening up” of the language and cultural barriers that existed between Islam and the West, and soon there were Muslim military colleges using French military textbooks with French advisors that were recruited into the Sultan’s armies, and this fact is quite remarkable in that the Empires had existed for so long with so little exchange between them. It was both frightening and painful to the Ummah at the time who feared corruption and pollution of Islam by the West, though again, there was little choice.
I give you these examples as all being success stories, where reforms were carried out that accomplished great things, and ensured survival of both peoples and nations. However, Yemen has my sympathy, for with such a large population and so few natural resources in comparison makes for a tough job, though not an impossible one. I would be inclined to suggest that your leaders to focus on what makes Yemen strong, that is its people. Education and developing labor-intensive industries as well as making for a more friendly investment climate to bring in capital to build is what is called for. In addition to that, the Saudi example of economic diversification is a well-thought out and viable plan, though the resources of Yemen would call for action on a smaller scale.
To compete and succeed in this age also requires computerization and development of high-tech related industries, and the way to achieve this would be with closer ties to the West. We in the United States are not interested in plunder or in taking advantage of poor and underdeveloped nations. We are interested in getting them “on their feet,” and on a level comparable to our own, for as each country focuses on specific industries that they excel in, all benefit, and this economic theory has been proven correct time and time again. It is my, and my country’s, hope that Yemen and other nations will achieve economic success and will further exchange both goods and ideas not to the detriment of one, but to the benefit of all.
Glenn Spiecker
Manhattan, Kansas – USA
A Friend From China: Lamenting The Loss of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf
I only learned of the tragic news at 10 p.m., June 2nd, when a friend of mine phoned me to inform me of the bad news. I was utterly shocked by the passing away of the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf. The only thing I could do then was cry. Ten minutes later I found myself searching my things to find his picture that I once tore form his paper, the Yemen Times. As I kept gazing at his photograph, many images of my encounters with him flashed back in my memory just like a movie.
I first had the chance to read the Yemen Times on March 20th, 1995 when I came to work as an ophthalmologist in the Chinese Medical Team in Yemen. I was very impressed by the high standard of the paper. So I kept reading all articles published in the newspaper for more than two years. It was my best guide to learn more about Yemen. I then started to contribute to the paper some articles about Yemeni Eye Diseases. At the end these articles proved to be beneficial to Yemeni doctors and patients alike as they became part of “Atlas of Yemen Eye Diseases,” a book which I finished writing on February 4th 1997. I sent the book’s manuscript to Mr. Yu XingZhi, former Chinese Ambassador to Sanaa asking him to write the forward. Then I sent the book to Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, YT Chief Editor, who gave me a phone call to ask me to meet him on 8 February in Aden Hotel. That was my first meeting with Dr. Al-Saqqaf. We had a wonderful chat about the book, and at the end Dr. Saqqaf said, “You have done something good for the Yemeni people and that’s why we should help you to publish the book. I will ask President Ali Abdullah Saleh to help in the funding of the publication of this book. When he was briefed on the contents of the book, President Saleh was very happy and immediately ordered the publication of the book.
On March 3rd, 1997, I joined the Yemen Times staff, where I worked for over three months. Here I had the chance to observe how hard Dr. Al-Saqqaf was working. He started working at 6 in the morning, and worked until late in the evening, including Fridays. But his dedication to his job did not affect his care for his family. One evening as he was working alone in the office, I brought him some food with a cup of tea. He smiled and said “Thanks Dr. Li, tonight I am going to have a dinner party with my wife and family at home.”I also had the chance to meet his wife, Mrs. Aziza Al-Saqqaf and I was really touched by her kindness, patience, and love to her husband. I also was very impressed with his parental ties. His children were very lucky to have a father like him. He was very loving, tender and kind towards them, but at the same time he was very strict when it comes to work or school duties.
With the help of Dr. Al-Saqqaf, I was very happy to meet the President of the Republic two times. The first time was when I finished publishing my book in Sanaa. President Saleh met former Chinese ambassador Mr. Yu Xing Zhi, Dr. Al-Saqqaf and myself on 6/6/1996. President Sale was really happy with the book I have published. He said that this book was part of the very good relationship between the two peoples of Yemen and China.
The second time I was very lucky to meet with President Saleh when he visited China in 14/2/1998. Dr. Al-Saqqaf was a member of the visiting delegation. Following their visit to Beijing, they visited Hefei, the Capital of the Province I lived in. Dr. Al-Saqqaf phoned me at home and invite me to meet President Saleh along with other members of the Chinese Medical Team working in Yemen. In this meeting, President Saleh highly praised the humanitarian assistance the Team has presented to the people of Yemen.
Among the many things I remember about the late Dr. Al-Saqqaf was his fearlessness of death. He knew that one day he will die but he knew best that he should do every thing he can to serve his community before the hand of fate descends upon him. I personally think that his passing away was a great loss not only to those who knew him, but to the whole nation. Dr. Al-Saqqaf was a true patriot, a light to every one who loves his country. The Yemen Times that he founded is Yemen’s best link to the outside world. I should refer here to his great contributions to promote Sino-Yemeni relationship. May his soul rest in peace and blessedness.
Professor, Li Jun.
Dear Editor,
I am an undergraduate student reading Philosophy and History of Art expecting to graduate this month with an Upper Second Class Degree at the University of Kent in Canterbury (UK). During my university years, I assisted in the publishing and editing of some of the articles in the university newspaper ‘Kred’: mainly concerning local news. My career plans are geared toward journalism, especially in Yemen as your country interests me greatly. I have a major interest in different cultures, and I have traveled throughout Europe, and visited Morocco and Egypt for three months each. During these times I kept a daily travel journal where I recorded my experiences and impressions. I believe that working in your country will be a very valuable experience. On request I can provide you with my resume and samples of my writing.
Tania Gessi