Survival Depends on the Ability of a System to Correct Itself [Archives:1999/27/Viewpoint]

July 5 1999

One of the basic requirements for the continuation or even the survival of any system (whether it is a government, a company, an institution, an organization, etc.) is its ability to overcome its shortcomings by itself. If a system is fossilized, it risks falling apart or withering away. This was the problem of the former USSR, as it failed to discover, acknowledge and correct its mistakes. This also happens to be the strength of the American system, which, in spite of its many problems, has the ability to constantly correct itself.
I am using the above introduction in order to discuss whether the present system in Yemen has this ability or not. One key quality of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his team of assistants has been their visible flexibility and ability to move with the times. The point is, however, whether such adjustments are for real and deep enough. In my opinion, three major adjustments will determine the future of the system headed by President Saleh.
1.Generational Transition: One of the key factors in the future success of the regime will be its ability to instill a smooth and peaceful generational transition. Many key assistants of the President – in the civilian as well as in the military – are people whose ages are now over 60 years. This means new blood is badly needed for the regime to move into the 21st century. Unfortunately, the old guard continues to hold on to the reigns of power, and the younger people are still waiting in the wings. The ability of the system to correct this problem is going to be a key factor in its future.
2. Transparency & Accountability: Corruption and mismanagement are two problems associated with the present regime. Its ability to show that it has the courage and will to address these issues is an important step. That will require ensuring a certain degree of transparency in the workings of the state. More importantly, accountability, based on a system of reward and punishment should be applied vis–vis individuals, whether those who perform their duties properly or those who abuse their authority. The credibility and legitimacy of the system could depend on this, especially at this time of economic austerity.
3. A Sense of Fair Play: One of the key problems associated with our system today is that there are some people who are above the law. They do whatever they like with visible impunity. The system must project a sense of fair play among the citizens of this country. If there are individuals who break the law, the state should not be seen as appeasing them. Law and order and full equality among citizens, irrespective of their military, tribal, social, financial, etc., background is imperative. The general public must believe in the even-handed dispensation of justice by the state and in its fair play.
Those are key issues that the President and his men need to ponder as the country prepares to move into the 21st century. I believe they are very critical, not only for the prosperity and strength of the regime, but for its very survival.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times Founder