ReflectionsHow to steal public moneyBeware of Yemen’s entourages [Archives:2004/798/Opinion]

December 13 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
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Everybody has his own entourage, and the richer or the higher position he holds, the bigger is his entourage.
Mostly the entourage is believed to be constituted of yes-men. In democratic countries the effect of the entourage is considerably diluted due to the preeminence of law and order as well as the active opposition or shadow government, let alone the filtration via free elections every four years, not to mention the free media.
In backward countries such as ours i.e. the different states of the Arab world, the effect of the entourage is rampant and pretty considerable. Some might dare to say that the impact differs from an Arab country to another. But to me, this is merely a bit correct and is not that significant at all.
Indeed, this article was brought up due to an address last week by the Yemeni president in which he called upon the responsible men in his government not to heed his directives if they find those directives overriding the already set rules and regulations. For, as he said, sometimes such directives are being prompted by people close to him whom he finds it rather difficult to reprimand.
The Yemeni Opposition Press declared that the president wanted simply to distance himself from shouldering responsibility with regard to the ongoing corruption, and that such tactics cannot relieve him from liability, proceeding to say that the populace are now mature enough to differentiate right from wrong.
By looking at the current status quo, and from reading Yemen's local press and the interaction with the people from different backgrounds, I know the people constituting the direct entourage around the president, and who are well known to us. They have been mentioned on several occasions by name and I do not need to mention each and every one of them.
These respective entourages are far more worse in robbing the public of its money and properties, because they do assume managing positions where they are directly responsible for considerable amounts for public good, but which are often channeled into private accounts here and abroad under different pretexts such as recurrent feasibility studies, seminars, exhibitions abroad etc.
In other words, the indirect entourage uses its relations with the direct entourage to assume official capacities and then gets a free hand in many areas. In fact one day an acquaintance complained to me how his minister used to be subjected to pressure by an individual belonging to the president's close entourage in order to effect certain decisions related to traveling abroad and the disbursement of certain allowances and how another brags day and night about his influential connections.
Unfortunately, the present ruling system in all Arab countries cannot warranty clearance from such malignance. Thus, you would mostly for sure find that most of those holding managerial, official and diplomatic capacities are by no means the best that an Arab country can offer.
This applies on all Arab countries and differences are not that significant. An Arab writer once wrote that Arab embassies are often utilized to entertain the top people as well as an exile place to unwanted figures or to satisfy the disgruntled.
I think that the president should shrink the powers given to his close entourage with regard to promotions, appointments and other official affairs related to administration. That such close individuals are knowingly or unknowingly cause lots of disturbance and confusion by enabling their respective entourages to assume official capacities whereby regardless of qualification their friends tend to loot and demolish rather than to build and reflect a good choice.
Most of such men are considerably cunning, for they pay underpaid journalists in order to make publicity for their phony projects and earn employees' allegiance here and there in return for regular allowances so as to help them achieve their selfish targets smoothly without hindrance whatsoever.
In a nutshell it is not enough to know, but something must be done at least to curb the deterioration which is on the rise from one year to the other. I am here neither in the president's camp nor with the opposition, but do merely give a personal opinion endeavoring at best to be correct.