Something We Lack: Respect of Time [Archives:1999/36/Law & Diplomacy]

September 6 1999

By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, 
Managing Editor, Yemen Times 
It is a common belief that respect of time and adherence to punctuality is one of the major ingredients and factors of the success and prosperity of the advanced world. It is this ethical norm that has brought about the welfare of these nations. This is because the concept of time-respect and reverence is a very important factor that keeps us on track to success, either on the nation or individual level. Time is precious and valuable and hence people have to grasp every moment and exploit it effectively and in a proper way. Respect of time and consideration of punctuality means a lot for any nation or individual. It means that people perceive time as a very important element in the helm of productivity and their welfare. In short, it means that these people are productive and active members of the society. Furthermore, it is an indication that every member of the society has something to do with the society and its development. 
They are all involved in the development process. However, they don’t work till they drain off their energy. Rather, they never miss their vacations and use them in a way that make them when they are back to their work more energetic and full of life. They give everything its due right and always keep balanced. 
Unfortunately, in Yemen it is only a select few who are punctual and respect time. Just pay a visit to any ministry. You will be, of course, appalled. Employees just come to the office and sign at 8: 30 in the morning. Then, they go for breakfast. They come back after some time and keep hanging around in the ministry offices. Therefore, if one has some procedures to be done, he/she has to go around looking for the person in charge. You might meet him. But he will tell you to come tomorrow or the day after or give any other baseless excuse. This is the ordinary employees. But the ranking officials might attend at 10 or even 11 in the morning and stay for some time and then leave. These guys do not sign at all or if so they do it once a week or a month. While being in the office, their doors are shut and bodyguards are standing there as statues preventing any one to meet this or that guy. 
Well, this is the daily routine one almost finds in all ministries offices. It is an acute headache, isn’t it? Every employee considers himself a sultan in his office since the sense of accountability is entirely absent. It is an irresponsible behavior that makes our work very much bureaucratic. 
Another interesting point is this. I have always attended press conferences, workshops, seminars and other kinds of such stuff. I have never found that even a single seminar or meeting has started as scheduled. They might announce, for instance, that the event will start at 10 o’clock. You have to expect that it will start at around 11. Sometimes, you might have an appointment with a person. He/she might keep you waiting for a long time, which is actually very worrying. He/she might not even call and excuse at that time. If you meet and blame him/he next time for breaking the word, he/she might simply say “SORRY.” What a curse! 
Besides, even few foreigners working in Yemen and who are supposed to be our role models in this respect seem to have adopted the Yemeni way in not respecting time. In other words, these people have adopted the Yemeni way of not giving much attention to the value of time. This is disturbing too. 
More paradoxically, we always seem to be fully preoccupied and busy. We are busy at work, at home and everywhere. The result is that we produce nothing sizable. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no hardworking people and who are highly punctual in our society. To the contrary, some are highly hardworking and go the extreme in their adherence to hard work and time exploitation. Sometimes hard work is tiring but it is very interesting and makes one enjoy life. 
Finally, I believe our neglect of time and punctuality is one of the main reasons of being left behind. Time is very important and precious. It is only once we spend the work time duration at offices working could a real growth in the society take place. Do you think so? I do!