Post-Eid Trouble Ahead [Archives:2001/51/Viewpoint]

December 17 2001

In a time we are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, no one can deny that one of the unfortunate landmarks of these days in Yemen is extreme poverty. Beggars are everywhere asking for money to cover the Eid expenses. No matter how far you live from the citys center, you must have had beggars knocking at your door in the hope of collecting what is sufficient for survival.
There have been news reports during this year of several individuals who committed suicide because of extreme frustration of not being able to secure the basic needs for their families. One of those cases was of a Yemeni man in Taiz who could not bare the looks of his dying daughter because of an illness that could have been cured with a little more money and decided to leave without coming back.
The true dimensions of the problem will only be clear to the ones who investigate and look into the cases of extreme poverty.
However, in such a traumatic situation, news of a proposed increase in the price of car fuel have starting causing concern and panic among the poor sector of the population, which is a significant portion. How can we celebrate the Eid while we know we will be facing an outrageously high increase in the price of fuel? a taxi driver asked me during a debate I had with him about the joy of this Eid.
The Eid of today has lost all its spirit and joy. People are eating potatoes instead of meat even in the first day of Eid. How can such condition permit us to enjoy the Eid as we did in the past? he exclaimed.
The expected 50% increase in fuels price from YR 700 to YR1050 will definitely lead to increase in prices of most commodities in Yemen.
One can imagine how such an increase could affect the poor. Not only will it be more difficult to make ends meet, but this may as well trigger instability and violence in the form of more thefts and robberies.
The number of people living below the poverty line is increasing by the year, and alarming numbers are starting to emerge. The latest human development report statistics say that the rate of Yemenis living below the poverty line is slowly but steadily approaching the 60% mark. However, economists believe that if no major steps are taken to rescue the situation, the rate could rise to more than 70% making Yemen among the few countries that have reached this extreme level of poverty.
Hence, it is only reasonable to imagine that the poor are getting closer and closer to the edge and beginning to feel the little difference between life and death.
The planned increase in fuel prices will constitute total devastation for the poor, who could barely survive in such harsh conditions. But has the government thought of what would happen to those? Has it drafted plans to help them get out of the imminent crisis?
Whether the answer is a yes or a no, there is little doubt that there is a post-Eid trouble waiting for Yemenis, especially the poor.
May God help them all!