The economic expert Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Tareb to the Yemen Times reflecting on the current situation:”The reform process requires a package of procedures that should be implemented in full.” [Archives:2005/867/Business & Economy]

August 11 2005

Q: The economic reform programs since 1995 and until today, have they proved to be a success or a total disaster and why?

A: We should know that there are dysfunctions in all the economic balances and shortcomings in the laws, and therefore all aspects of life go on in a chaotic and random way. The government' confession to the reform process means it should acknowledge that there is a deviation and deficit in the economic balances in general.

The reform process was previously argued by Eng. Haidar al-Attas, Prime Minister of the Re-unification's State. At the time, the Parliament approved the reform program, and the two partners, the People's General Congress and Yemeni Socialist parties did not kept their word to conduct the reform process (the government's program). After 1994's war, more than one government came into existence and each was bearing in mind different program and ideas for the reform process without paying attention to the former program of economic, financial and administrative reforms.

Posing at the previous programs and assessing them is a must, and any shortcomings or failures should be resolved instead of exerting efforts to assess new proposals. In all the previous programs, we discussed corruption, reforms and updating laws, but were we honest in what we say and do we believe in economic reforms and eradication of corruption?

It is a political will and we all need it. We are in a situations we never expected, and the simple citizen does not feel any improvements except for day-to-day suffering, inflation and chaos even in the shadow of marginal successes in the program.

Bajammal's government inherited heavy internal and external debts, laws out of place and traditional administrative system. In his study on economic, financial and administrative reforms, late Dr. Ahmad al-Bishari stated that the government has implemented what was supposed to be implemented by the citizen and not by it such as decreasing the number of embassies and consulates and their staff, as well as some of the unnecessary expenditures and other trivial procedures.

The reform process requires a package of procedures that should be implemented in full. Otherwise, the situation would lead to disorder and catastrophe, which we experience today.

Q: Abdulqadir bajamal said that removing the oil subsidies was for the good of the people on the long run, as an economic expert, do you think this is true?

A: Bajammal's talk would be true if we had a state of institutions and an effective law. We should transparently say: does the government collect any money to its treasury? I say it does not. There is a lot of money in the form of debts on the simple citizen or the employee that has not been collected for several years. Thus, there are corruption and ineffectiveness in the application of laws 15 years after the Re-unification. When will the ordinary citizen feel comfortable? This reminds me of the famous Yemeni proverb; “If all the time is spent in construction, when accommodation will be.”

The government was supposed to lift subsidy on oil products after giving employees the suggested increase in their salaries, which they have not got until now. The government kept on defending its decisions even after inflaming the Yemeni street and the intervention of the President to decrease price of some oil derivatives and his orders for tackling sufferings.

Q: The reaction of the Arab diplomatic community towards the price hikes was relatively pro the issue, is it politically driven or do you think the other countries' experiences prove the price hikes to be a good step towards reform?

A: This is true. The World Bank immediately declared that it was not responsible for what happened. If we can not comprehend the economic and social experience of Yemen, how we can profit from the experiences of others scoring a leap in their economies.

Q: What about corruption?

A: Corruption exists not only in Yemen, but it is a norm in the developed and developing countries. However, there are limitations of corruption through the issuance of laws and by-laws that restrict its growth and development. All the charitable forces in the society should work hand in hand and devote extensive efforts to fight this cancer (corruption), the government should issue laws for combating corruption, and the national forces have to perform their national duties toward the activation and application of laws.

While fighting corruption and corrupts, we should not exclude any individual or a group of people despite the fact there is a lack of trust between talk and action with regard to corruption combating. I repeatedly insist on restricting corruption, and there will not be any real reform in the existence of corruption since the country is the loser and the beneficiary is a single person.

Q: What must Yemen do to get out of this economic mess?

A: Reform is the be-all and end-all on all levels.

Q: In a press statement to the Yemen Times in the last issue you said the government must resign, what are the criteria of the coming government should be in your opinion?

A: I claimed the government to resign when it saw some of its members insisting on the application of reforms and cutting fuel subsidy without linking them with its pledges to citizens; that was a desire to calm down the public wrath. The government insisted on the application of price rises without dealing with the positive aspect in the policy of lifting fuel subsidy in exchange for increasing wages covered in the strategy of the Ministry of Civil Service and Insurances. It has been made clear that the increase in wages was not felt by the employees.

I expect programs of the coming government to pay more attention to combating corruption; ending sufferings of citizens and setting policies that push the country upward and improve the situation of citizen who needs education, medicine and accommodation to feel stable and be more creative contributing to the development of his/her country.

Q: Any last comment?

A: I hold the view that the President's intervention to lessen the sufferings of citizens by reducing fuel prices and his orders to the government to activate its role in all areas confirm that he observes all major and minor changes and events. The President has to form a national government to interpret the broader lines of his policy with clear programs and better supervision over the upcoming presidential elections in 2006 to push forward the wheels of Yemen's development.