Opportunist merchants and uncommitted government behind economic cises, survey finds [Archives:2006/1007/Reportage]

December 14 2006

Mohammed Al-Jabri
As the recent election results were announced, the prices of basic foodstuffs increased remarkably. At that time, the government held traders responsible for this, as they have a monopoly on basic foodstuffs, namely wheat, flour and sugar. It said it launched a wide-ranging campaign to control these tradesmen, who monopolize foodstuffs and rig prices.

The Yemen Times sent reporters into the streets to get reactions from Yemeni citizens and come up with the following survey results. Most of those interviewed agreed that the government hasn't fulfilled its promises to fix foodstuff prices and that it is hand in hand with businessmen and traders to hide the fact that a new round of price hikes will rear its head in the days to come.

With a population of more than 20 million, 4 out of 10 Yemenis live on less than $2 a day and 43 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Saeed Al-Batati (Hadhramout), Mahmoud Al-Harazi, Khalil Al-Khawbari (Sana'a) and Taiz Bureau contributed to the survey.

Saleh Abdullah Ubaid, 50

“In fact, I don't know what's the reason behind the new price hikes in foodstuffs. Our currency is so low. I have to work to sustain my family because neither the government nor tradesmen will give us anything. What can we do?”

Nabil Noman, 22

“The reason foodstuffs have become very expensive nowadays are the unwise policies of our government. There's no supervision to control price rigging because we notice monopolizing of foodstuffs without clear reasons.

Yemenis have become accustomed to new rounds of price hikes and now there's a new one. Supervising prices doesn't exist.

The government says it has launched campaigns in the markets to control price rigging, but prices remain the same. Undoubtedly, the government and tradesmen are partners in this regard.”

Mohammed Qaed, 20

This young man receives YR 15,000 a month, which is only enough to chew qat while working at a grocery store.

“The main reason for the rise in foodstuff prices is Yemeni citizens themselves. For one thing, they can't speak about their rights. It's the people who are held responsible because they remain silent and don't say anything. Another price hike will appear in the days to come.”

Sa'ad Ali

Ali was surprised when price hikes occurred after the elections, which ran counter to his expectations that prices wouldn't rise.

“I really don't know the reasons for the price hikes we experience nowadays. Our government broke its promise because foodstuff prices skyrocketed immediately after the elections. What can we do? We must cope with this situation.”

Hifdhallah Al-Hwaisi, 35

This man, who sells unused goods cartons, holds both government and tradesmen responsible for any price hikes.

“Absence of responsibility on the part of our government has played a big role in causing the current price hikes. I think it's a quiet round of price hikes, but the government hasn't declared it yet.”

Na'eem Mohammed Suroor

For this young man, last September's elections are the main reason behind the price hikes. He regretted that Yemenis voted for the General People's Congress, which didn't fulfill its promises.

“This is a new price increase. My YR 15,000 salary isn't enough for my family and me. We don't know why there are all of these price hikes.”

Nasser Saleh

Saleh thinks the unstable condition of the U.S. dollar, which sometimes goes up and sometimes down, led to this situation. He says his YR 10,000 monthly salary is only enough to buy qat for two weeks.

“Who's responsible for the price hikes? Undoubtedly, it's our Uncle Ali [President Ali Abdullah Saleh] and [Prime Minister] Abdulqader Bajammal. They decide everything. We're witnessing a devastating new round of price hikes nowadays.”

Hamid Ahmed

“This new round of price hikes was caused by the recent elections. Our government has broken its promises. My salary doesn't help me cover my family's basic needs.”

Ahmed Abdu Hasan

This 24-year-old young man agrees with Ahmed and says he doesn't know what the reason is for the price hikes. “Both government and tradesmen are responsible,” he remarked.

Abdul-Rahman Al-Dhafri

“The state actually isn't determined or serious about fixing prices. The government is the main reason behind any price hikes. This is a new but quiet round of price hikes.”

Hasan Ahmed Salem

Saleh, a father of three, says his monthly salary isn't enough to sustain his family. For him, government officials' sense of irresponsibility is one reason why prices have risen since the September elections. “The government supports tradesmen and the new round of high prices exists accordingly.”

Huda Al-Dubaei

This schoolteacher thinks the government has broken its promises, but at the same time, she holds traders responsible for the high prices. “Citizens remain the oppressed, being at the mercy of a hammer and trigger. What we see nowadays is a slow rise in prices.”

Mohammed Al-Shaer

This lawyer is very upset with Bajammal's government, which he describes as both ignorant and wise. “There's no law to fix prices, so traders don't stick to one fixed price. It's the traders who are the reason for high foodstuff prices. We can say that this is the beginning of several price hikes.”

Abdu Bakr Omar

“Prices? What can be said of such high prices is that it's a political ploy that started with the last elections. What's the government doing after all? To cheat these poor citizens, who can't afford the lunch of even one of our corrupt officials. Let the citizens suffer terribly for five more years because they voted for the current regime.”

Fawaz Al-Awmi

“The main reason for the price hikes is the irresponsible Ministry of Trade, as well as election publicity funds the ruling party received from businessmen. My salary lasts only four days, which is why I need an additional job.”

Abdullah Mohammed Je'aeel

Abdullah is of the view that the government doesn't control traders, who, in turn, stick to prices according to their mood. “This is the start of a new round of price hikes, without a doubt.”

Ahmed Khasrouf

For Khasrouf, traders are the only ones who broke their promises and caused the new price hikes in foodstuffs. “This isn't a new price hike, but rather price-rigging on the part of traders.”

Ibrahim Al-Hajj

“Rising taxes is the main reason for the price hikes. The government didn't fulfill its promises from the last elections. Also, traders are very greedy.”

Mohammed Abu Arrijal

Trader Abu Arrijal says prices rose because there are no government regulations. He adds that some greedy traders want to get richer at the expense of the poor by making their prices skyrocket.

Fadhel Mohammed Ali

“The greediness of traders and lack of supervision leads to price hikes. The government also broke its promises. Some high-ranking state officials are traders themselves. What we witness nowadays is a new round of price hikes.”

Mohammed Abdul-Qader Basha

Basha is one of many Yemenis whose salaries don't meet their needs. He thinks a new round of price hikes isn't being announced, while prices rise daily without any justification. “The coming price hikes will be deadly,” he predicts.

“If the situation in general is a mess, how then will the government carry out economic reforms in a short period of time? The government should be given a chance to fulfill its promises – at least five years – because it doesn't oversee tradesmen's greed,” he adds.

Anas Mansour Ali

Ali's monthly salary lasts only three to four days. He believes a cataclysm of high prices is coming that will have no mercy upon anyone. “Of course, the government didn't stick to its promises and caused prices to go up without taking any action. However, even the measures it took against some tradesmen were in vain.”

Ahmed Al-Sharabi

“Prices rose unbelievably after the September elections,” Al-Sharabi says, adding that his salary isn't enough to sustain his 12 children. “I have to work day and night with only four hours to sleep. The government should have mercy upon us.”

Ahmed Al-Tamimi

“The problem is that the government didn't stick to its programs since the beginning of economic reform. Tradesmen – the economy's decision-makers – are the main factor. They direct the nation, so political decisions won't work without strict measures. The government attributes the price hikes to an international increase, but when prices decrease internationally, that isn't the case here.”

He adds, “The problem lies in mismanagement of state financial resources, as billion of riyals are spent secretly.”

Ahmed Al-Meqdi

“Tradesmen are responsible for the high prices. By nature, they are opportunists, attempting to exploit any situation and raise prices. The moment the government increases employee salaries, they take advantage of such opportunity and raise foodstuff prices. I'm talking about senior tradesmen concerned with the import and export process.”

Salemeen Omar Basalloum

Basalloum says his salary not only is unable to bring happiness to his children, but also is insufficient to sustain them. “The price rise occurred due to lack of observation and calling violators to account.”

Hassa Al-Jamhi

“I'm dissatisfied with foodstuff prices, but we should take into consideration the economic problems our country is experiencing.”

Salem Awadh Al-Awbathani

“There are many reasons for the rise in prices, including state ignorance regarding supervising prices and depending upon foreign products. The increasing prices have affected citizens, who have begun searching for additional jobs.”

Yousef Bamahrah

“The high prices cause people to worry the most. The state's weak economy is the main reason for this problem. I think price hikes are on the rise.”