New Government & Unknown Fate [Archives:2001/17/Focus]

April 23 2001

Mohamed Bin Sallam
The cabinet reshuffle carried out lately brought about new faces of mostly middle-aged and senior individuals to the head of the new government’s ministries. Even though this is not exactly what has been promised by the president through the media and official newspapers, who said that he would bring about young faces, this move has been seen by many to be some sort of a sincere commitment for change.
It is unwise to prejudge the efficiency of the new government of Abdulqader Bajammal. It is possible, however, to speculate the current circumstances, study the past experiences, and look into the basis of the problem to try to figure out how things would go.
First of all, we need to realize that the new cabinet reshuffle may not have emerged as part of a previously set plan or strategy to meet the demands of the common Yemeni citizen. One reason for that may be because those in charge failed to realize the true sufferings and miseries of the Yemeni citizen. This has been the case during the last 2 decades.
The Yemeni citizen of today has nothing in his mind other than making both ends meet through all possible means for his survival. He further wants that the effects of the different forms of corruption existing in all governmental offices all over the country affect him the least. Again, due to the lack of justice, peace, and equal rights for citizens, and due to the wide gap between the different social classes, the citizen has become unable to assert his rights in any way unless he has enough money to do so. All of these miseries lead to more desperation and suffering among the Yemeni population, particularly the ones below the poverty line. Despite all that, there are still some Yemenis that dream of improvement in their standard of living once a cabinet reshuffle takes place.
However, it is well-known that the latest reshuffle that put Abdulqader Bajammal at the head of the government was no more than a move to absorb public anger and frustration caused by the government of Dr. Al-Iryani, and is by no means a planned reshuffle. The Iryani government came after the resignation of the former premier Dr. Faraj bin Ghanem who realized that the administrative structure of the government was not strong enough to do any good for the nation. He realized also that his developmental projects and plans were faced with tremendous obstacles due to corrupt officers and individuals, who were able to influence governmental decisions in direct and indirect ways. Al-Iryani’s government tried to absorb the public anger by giving too many promises that expectedly were not met in any way and hence, his government failed -according to public opinion- to improve the economic and security conditions.
Hence, we should not be too optimistic about the new government.
One of the reasons is the shortage of time for the new government to improve the standard of living and develop the country. Another reason is that there seems to be no political will to combat the corruption prevalent all over the country.
Corruption inside the government and within every little governmental office is impossible to be rooted out by any government unless there is a basic deep-rooted change in the way the country is being governed. The solution is not in changing governments, but it is in limiting the interference of military officials, tribesmen, and influential people into the government’s functioning sabotaging any attempts by any government for a change. The talk about corruption has dominated everything else. It is the cancer that is slowly eating all the country’s resources. The citizen who loves his country and works with honesty and dignity can barely survive the harsh economic conditions because of his low salary. Yet he cannot reconcile himself to being corrupt or even seeing his colleagues involving themselves in all sorts of corrupt acts. The Yemeni illiterate community has slowly reached the conclusion that the bandits who commit robberies, take bribes and get involved in corruption are the smartest and the given a lot of who are respect. Hence, those corrupt people freely continue their corruption with no reason to back out.
If there are to be reforms that would in any way get the country out of its current situation, then it should be implemented from top to bottom. I affirm, that any reforms should not include government officials only, but also the ones are at the top. The top should be the model for all other layers to follow because those who are at the top cannot punish the ones beneath them if they themselves are corrupt. However, if the opposite is what is happening, i.e., the ones who are honest are the ones at the bottom while the top brass continue to be corrupt, this will lead to having layers at the bottom become even more corrupt than their masters.
Most of the political individuals and intellectuals have expressed their concern and pessimism about the future, simply because there can be no change in the future because the ones in charge have shown no difference in attitude. The other reason is that there seems to be no change in the way the country is governed while the decision-making hierarchy is still the same. Those individuals confirm that the only objective of the government of Bajammal is seems to be the following:
1-Preparing the GPC for the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2003. The local council elections have proven that there is a reason of concern and worry for the GPC in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. This caused the GPC’s leadership to take into account all possible precautions to prevent any further decline in the party’s popularity to prevent the emergence of rival parties. The Islah’s dominance in the local elections councils in many areas has become a source of concern and worry that the party may not indeed be able to compete for power at the parliamentary level.
2-The formation of this government came as a direct consequence of the recent regional developments at the international level, among which is the restoration of the Yemeni-Kuwaiti relations before the 1990 Gulf war. Apart from that is the need to further develop bilateral relations and complete the border treaty. To Bajammal, was the signatory to the memorandum of understanding which helped conclude the Jeddah treaty. He was the main player to achieve a peaceful resolution on behalf of Yemen.
3-Absorbing the anger and frustration that has been rising lately at all levels.
Finally, we can say that the government of the Economics professor and political expert Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Iryani along with his modernization package had collided with different obstacles. So this leads us to the conclusion that the mission of the new head of government and the graduate of political science Abdulqader Bajammal, who is also the initiator of the privatization program, will indeed face many challenges and obstacles. The strongest and most difficult challenge will again be the authority structure and the weakness of the government’s policies and decision-making to get rid of corruption and many other sensitive issues.
Yet, it is only a matter of time and we will all be able to check whether what has been guessed and speculated is true or not.