Reforms what to do where to head? (5) [Archives:2004/756/Opinion]

July 19 2004

By Prof. Dr. Abdul Aziz Altarb
For Yemen Times

It is patently clear that changes and reforms in Yemen and in a number of Arab countries have become very necessary. Laying timetables for the reforms would help tremendously. In order not to delay them, the eight largest industrial countries, G-8, are expected to establish a genuine partnership for the reforms in the Middle East with the assertion that reforms must come from within of the countries in the Middle East.
Will the G-8 wait long to see what has already taken place? I believe that the G-8 has adopted decisions and drawn plans. Thus we need to have a comprehensive vision towards a renaissance with detailed plans for implementation.
Yemen's need for development and reform efforts that would place it on the path toward a comprehensive renaissance is clear and undisputed. This is a case that will not tolerate hypocrisy or political infighting as an operation to achieve a genuinely comprehensive renaissance requires the dealing with existing realities away from fabrications or exaggerations of the current situation. On the contrary, misleading information of any sort, in my opinion, is a betrayal of the community and an insult to future generations.
Once again, I repeat that Yemen has achieved a lot, but our aim is far beyond. Our ambition is to see Yemen as a modern state in all aspects, and to be able to achieve higher growth rates to enable us to absorb more of the unemployed, and to double the number of tourists coming to Yemen every year in order to double hard-currency revenues. Our ambition is to see Yemeni agricultural products flooding into neighboring countries all year around.
Society and people have the right to expect more and more and to demand the best in every aspect of life. In highly developed countries, this is one of the top priorities of their governments, which is the basis for the assessment of the governments' performance, based on the extent of the accomplishments and accountability of governments. The ambitions and expectations of Yemenis have always been high and should not be diminished by what has been achieved of development and progress. Any official ought not to become short-tempered at criticism and accountability on the basis of the gap between the required and the possible, or between the expected and feasible, and this should not be explained as an accusation of the failure of the official.
No can deny the huge and rapid changes that have occurred at the local, regional and international levels. The problems and challenges are many, but recognizing and admitting reality does not mean surrendering or yet getting more frustrated. There is no excuse not to confront these problems and challenges and to search for appropriate and possible solutions to them.

To help ourselves, we have to read the following more carefully. We continue working on the requirements of economic development and progress, based on reforms and changes following the recent G-8 summit where the US “Greater Middle East Initiative” was transformed to become a US-European initiative and the two have agreed that it has to go through three major phases:
– The launch phase on the 8th of June (the G-8 Summit)
– The building phase and agreement to the implementation steps- NATO Summit – Helsinki June 25.
– The phase of revising, implementing and commencing contacts and coordination with Middle Eastern parties, June 28-29 in Istanbul.

In my personal view, Iraq will be the main focus, especially after the elections, assisted by secondary centers that would be transformed into major centers. For example, Kuwait is a secondary center, Qatar is a military center and Turkey a secondary center that could be transformed to a major center, Morocco is a secondary center, and Libya is not decided yet as it is still under investigation. Saudi, Syria and Egypt are excluded.
Thus, this is the launch pad towards creating the Greater Middle East, and its executive body are regular forums, the first attended by heads of governments, another for ministers of the economy and finance and a third for foreign ministers, through which issues and development are assessed and evaluated.
Where are we from all of this? And what progress has been made since the return of Arab presidents and kings from Tunisia? Don't we need to react fast toward laying out the basis for reforms and changes before they are imposed from outside?