Services: vital for a strong economy [Archives:2004/757/Viewpoint]

July 22 2004

It is important to note that Yemen, along with most developing countries, is suffering from a very weak services sector. Our countries have been depending on natural and regular sources of governmental income to run our countries. But in such a rapidly changing world, we look more and more isolated and alone when not adopting policies that utilize the services sector. The situation in which our economies are standing today is a clear example that we are missing the race.
The dependency of Yemen on oil, taxes, donations, loans, and other regular sources of income has created systematic stagnancy in the local economy. Today, Yemen is lagging in the services sector which includes banking, insurance, tourism, industries, etc. Furthermore, with an unbelievable annual population growth rate of 3.7%, the conventional sources of income failed to cope with the increasing demand.
On the other hand, countries that lack natural sources such as Japan have become the most productive nations on earth. In my recent visit to the second largest economy of the world, I have been impressed by a massive service sector that is several folds larger than Arab countries' total services sector put together and has depended on the services sector to grow with the country's economy. This sector not only stimulated the economy and employed millions of people, but it also served in utilizing the country's sources in a way that promotes the country's economy and international image and produces strong reputation for its services and products.
For various reasons, the Yemeni authorities have unfortunately given little attention to the service sector, and in particular, that of the private sector's services. This has consequently resulted in a very week infrastructure that discouraged investors to start service projects in the country. The reason is probably due to the fact that the successive governments were not aware a successful services sector could do in helping the economy in a time they were quite happy with the income from the country's national resources.
On the other hand, the lack of high quality service providers in the country resulted in low awareness levels of the public in knowing what is offered to them and hence in using those services effectively. In fact, some companies have developed a habit of unconcern about the customers' satisfaction or demands. “Either take it or leave it!” became the main belief of individual companies, making citizens feel unimportant for the companies, and hence not valuing services offered to them.
In the ideal case, service oriented companies should seek all ways to ensure customers are satisfied about their services and establish a hot-line for customer care and feel their responsibility in tackling their concerns.
One good example is the day when I called for an appointment with the Suzuki Motors Company in Japan, I was shocked and quite impressed to know that a whole meeting was arranged for me to get my input and ideas. The director of boards of members of the company came specifically for the meeting to know my impressions about the company's customer and public relations in Yemen. I then realized one of their factors of success in the international market, i.e., paying individual attention to all their clients. This is the very thing that we lack in Yemen.
Of course, we still have a very long way to go until we have a productive service sector, but I assert that our governments should realize the importance of this sector and should take Dubai and other service oriented cities and countries to know how to survive amid the challenges of the twenty first century.