The Financial Statement of Senior Officials [Archives:1998/10/Viewpoint]

March 9 1998

Early in the life of the government of Dr. Faraj Bin Ghanim, there were announcements that all senior officials (the prime minister, ministers, vice/deputy ministers, governors, etc.) will indicate – under oath – their financial worth. Some sort of a financial statement would be made public. The idea behind such a disclosure is in order to measure, in the future, the growth of wealth of our officials.
Now, ten months into the life of this government, no such disclosure has been made. In fact, the whole idea seems to have been simply shelved away. This is sad because it erodes the credibility of the government in fighting corruption.
Yemen is plagued with corrupt officials. This is merely a factual statement. Success of the reform program presently underway requires more accountability and transparency. The government has not made any progress towards either of those requirements. In fact, society has witnessed more corruption, favoritism, nepotism, etc.
The international donor community (multilateral and bilateral aid partners of Yemen) has repeatedly made it clear that it would like to see more progress in the proper handling of state funds. In addition, a major component of the reform package calls for clean interaction with private sector initiatives by government officials. All this boils down to respect for the law, and more integrity in public affairs.
Development is not merely an accumulation of capital. It has a moral component which elevates society to behave within certain norms and values. A corrupt system cannot lead to prosperity for all members of society. Resources are not enough by themselves. Not many countries in the world can claim the resources available to Nigeria, Indonesia, and the likes. Yet, those countries are quite far away from being developed and prosperous.
On the other hand, countries with a high standard of ethics, especially in interacting with the law and public resources, have achieved spectacular growth, even when their resources are limited. In other words, the values embedded in the workings of a system are as important as – and possibly more important than – the material resources.
The Republic of Yemen already is poor in resources. If such a disadvantage is further coupled with the wrong values, then our society will be saddled with poverty and backwardness for a long time.
The government needs the good will and support of the people of Yemen as well as that of the international donor community. Shaping up will go a long way towards helping in getting the good will and support. One simple step in that direction is to demand senior members of this government to issue statements on their financial worth. It can be done within days, if the will is there.
I believe Yemen’s reform program is important for the future of this nation. I believe issuing the financial statements of our senior officials will help in the success of the reforms.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher