Promising Yemen to attract investment [Archives:2004/774/Opinion]

September 20 2004

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Tarb
For the Yemen Times

Yemen that was promising in the nineties, at the time of the Reunification, is able to attract the capitals of Arabs abroad estimated at $ 6 billion. These capitals belong to wealthy people from oil and non-oil producing countries including Yemenis who traveled abroad seeking safety and high income. Most of their capitals are either invested in shares and estates or as current accounts in foreign banks. If there was security, stability and investment opportunities in the region, such capitals will be invested within Arab region.
Nowadays, Arab and foreign countries compete with each other in the areas of law amendments to attract investments and capitals and oil-producing countries, which experienced a massive investments movement in the last twenty years, can now, through their financial assets and investment organizations, attract the capitals possessed by their citizens. In addition to that, ownership and investment restrictions imposed on people in non-oil countries make it difficult if not impossible to see investment opportunities.
Furthermore, the rest of Arab countries except for Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco are either not politically and socially stabilized or experience unpromising opportunities, and it may take a decade to regain capitals that are outside the region.
Yemen is now in a need for change, starting reformation, amending laws, and selecting highly qualified cadres more than before ,after the president confirmed fighting and Aden free zone will be the real alternative for investing capitals.
The President may wonder, “why do not the Arab millionaires withdraw their capitals from the European banks and invest them in Yemen and Arab countries which have the ability to attract investment?”
The answer will be as follows:
1) Foreign countries do not have security especially after Sept 11th event and therefore witness series of economic shocks as:
The Black Monday in October,1987 when stock market deteriorated and Arabs' losses reached $ 25 billion. After that came the Red Monday when Arabs lost another $ 10 billion.
2) The claim of Western governments to respect free investment laws however this dos not cover the Arab investors, and the bed of the British government to Kuwait to sell a great part of its shares in British companies after a rise in share prices, is still remembered.
3) Yemen and other Arab countries amended many of their laws and became able to attract investment. Investment attraction to Yemen will be through administrative financial and economic reforms and its ability to present itself in regional and international conferences.
It is an investigatable issue”, said the president in his talk with a number of military and civil officials and motivated the qualified cadres to compete in favor of the society.
We expect that the president will listen to the comments of businessmen and civil community organizations and then comes the time of amending investment and customs laws and a number of procedures and bylaws in order not to thwart and frustrate investors. We do not expect the procedures in Yemen to be as easy as those in Britain, Spain and Australia and not to take some months.
What frustrates the attraction of Arab and foreign capitals to Yemen is bureaucracy, routine and ignorance. We can not achieve what we want by means of the mindsets of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies and the Aden free zone is still a practical evidence to what happens and is happening to us “Time is money”. There fore we have to take practical procedures towards reflecting the authorities' real intentions to make it a real free zone capable of attracting investments.
It is really a chance while the president is visiting Britain, as well as to interpret the president's visit to Britain as reconsideration for the chairmanship of the Aden free zone that the chairman of the General Authoritie for free zones to be the executive chairman of the Aden free Zone's board of directors has to be given the tools of authority for which we can compensate during 14 years and half.