The Hadramawt as Yemen’s gateway to investment [Archives:2006/954/Opinion]

June 12 2006

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
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Last week I paid a visit to Mukalla in the Hadramawt to cover the Yemeni-Saudi Coordination Council meetings. I was really impressed by the improvement the city is making. Good roads have been built. Streets have been cleaned-up and beautified. The Khour, or water route running through the city, is impressive. I have been told this route was used as a sewer formerly, but now is has been transformed into a beautiful waterway moderating the hot weather of the city.

Celebrating Unification Day last year in Mukalla was a driving force behind the improvements the city has seen, as the political leadership wanted to show that Unification has been positive for the city.

However, I argue that improvements in Mukalla are not due solely to political decision making in Sana'a. Rather, a committed governor, Abdulqader Hilal, has initiated many changes himself. Hilal has shown competence and commitment in doing his work and has established good contacts with Hadhrami businessmen leading to increasing investment in the city. Hilal talked to journalists about the ongoing activities in his governorate, and audience members could see that the man has got a vision of how to lead the governorate. The people of Hadramawt truly respect Hilal and feel that he is serious and wants to make a difference there.

We know that the Hadramawt contains the largest petroleum deposits of any governorate in Yemen. Many outstanding businessmen in Saudi Arabia trace their roots to the area.. Even though Sana'a pays special attention to the area, the fact that Mukalla has a competent leader is an important element for its success.

We have seen what Ahmed Al-Kuhlani had done in Sana'a and we expect him to continue working with the same zeal in Aden. The same thing was done by Dr. Yahia Al-Shuaibi when he governed Aden and we hope he will continue in the same manner in Sana'a. Such examples of competent and able people show that commitment and willingness to make a change is very important.

I believe that the Hadramawt can be the Yemeni gateway to the Gulf countries, principally to Saudi Arabia where businessmen of Hadhrami origin can bring in big investment projects. For attracting such investors, we need law enforcement, transparency, and an independent judiciary which all contribute to the creation of a more favorable environment for investment. Even such changes are made to enforce the rule of law, foreign investors will find Yemen an attractive place to bring their money.

But, what is annoying to any visitor to the governorate are the large walled-in masses of land. These pieces of land belong to influential tribal and military figures coming from the Hadramawt. They were not purchased but donated by notables at the center of power in Yemen. What is interesting is that even pieces of land on the top of hills have been encircled while the people of the Hadramawt have never thought of living on these hills and have preferred the valleys for generations.

The Hadramawt is not an ordinary governorate and has produced a number of well-known politicians, businessmen, men of letters, poets, musicians, singers etc. It is also known for its peaceful people gifted with entrepreneurial minds. I was impressed by the Al-Mutawasityah school and its library that date back to the 1940s. At the wall of the school, which is now a museum, one can see the list of graduating classes of students, including Ali Salem Al-Beidh, Haider Al-Attass, Faraj bin Ghanim and many others who ran the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen prior to Unification in 1990 and since the 1994 civil war have been tagged as secessionists. It is a pity to see such well-educated and experienced figures are now tainted exiles.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.