Presidential guidance while living on the edge [Archives:2008/1136/Viewpoint]

March 10 2008

Rumour has it that in the “staged” protest against the reprinting of the Danish cartoons at the Sabeen Square in Sana'a earlier this month, a citizen shouted: “I don't care about the Danish cartoons, I care about my hungry family”. He was protesting the price hikes which increased basic consumer goods by three folds in one year. Apparently the security officers controlling the protest caught and beat this protestor black and blue, for getting his priorities right.

According to Maslow's Pyramid of Needs, physical requirements such as food and shelter come way before psychological requirements such as faith and intellect.

“Feed my family, cure my children, give my husband a job then I'll tell you what I think of the Danish cartoons,” a poor lady on the street told me when I asked her opinion on the issue.

To add insult to injury or the other way round, there goes our “beloved” president threatening that the prices will even go higher if someone other than him ever is to rule Yemen. It's like he was saying: “vote me king, or die”.

Not that the opposition parties are any better. They are immersed deeply in their political ploys that they do not care about the real needs of the people. Worse, they are using the citizens' anguish to stir them against the ruling party. The opposition leaders have no idea what the average citizen is going through every day just to survive. Why should they? When their homes are warm, and their bank accounts are full just like those of the ruling party.

So while the president is visiting Europe, he realizes that learning English is good, and vocational education is the way forward. As if people have money to spare for better education or selective language learning.

Even educated people are struggling. Once again this week I lose another reporter who decides the salary she gets in Yemen Times is not enough. In one year, I have had an employee turnover rate at the editorial department of 77 percent. And the people who stayed are complaining that they want a significant increase in their income because the prices have gone up drastically.

There is nothing I would love to do more than keep my staff happy, or just keep my staff. But the government does not help, in fact, there goes again the tax authority harassing us and coming up with new percentages every year. There is no subsidisation for paper, for electricity, for fuel, for distribution costs…etc.

We cannot even get direct support from international organizations that are willing to help independent press in Yemen because it is against the law. Apparently if we do, we would be traitors.

So the situation is that we have laws that don't not allow us to get help, a local environment that does not want us to prosper, and a president who is preaching about how nice it will be to have everyone speak English, and how bad it will be if he goes.

You don't get it Mr. President, do you?