The Importance of the Ministry of Social Affairs [Archives:1998/31/Viewpoint]

August 3 1998

Most people would agree that some ministries are more important than others. This is logical, given that they are in charge of different responsibilities.
In the public eye, as well as based on political priorities, the ministries of defence, interior, and finance are at the top of the list of importance. Then there are the ministries which shape the mind – such as the ministries of education, information, etc. Then come next the ministries that provide services. At the end, every ministry is important. That is why there is a ministry in the first place.
For Yemen today, I believe the Ministry of Social Affairs should top the list of importance. For a country that is going through a poverty transition, for a country that is restless, for a country that has a third of its population below the subsistence level, for a country that has a 40% unemployment rate, … and for a country that is implementing a reform package, the ministry responsible for the cushion on which the poor fall is quite an important one.
Yet, this ministry is neglected. If only our politicians knew better. The performance of this ministry will determine how patient the public is with the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It is this ministry that will determine how fast and how extensive the reform program can go. It is this ministry that will determine how much the general public can take.
Yet, this ministry is neglected.
You can see the blurred of vision (actually, lack of it) because of the absence of interest of the regime in this ministry. It is not a matter of money, and there is lot of it going the way of this ministry; but it is the lack of vision or even minimum work that characterizes the ministry.
For the sake of stability and peace in the country, I urge the president to attend to this ministry. Look at the people who manage it… a bunch on nincompoops whom one would not employ for anything. The president needs to wake up to see that this is a much dangerous ministry than the ministry of defence or finance. I am surprised that it has not dawned on him or his “advisors”.
Another piece of advice to the President. Take twenty weeks on your calendar, and assign each week for a different ministry. During that week, you go to inspect that ministry once. The vice president should also go once. The Prime Minister should go once, as well. Each visit should seek to re-structure the ministry and address all issues relevant to its work. This way, something could well be corrected.
Many opposition politicians believe that neither the president nor anybody else is capable of correcting any situation. For the sake of Yemen, I hope they are wrong. But time is indeed running out.
Mr. President, could you assign next to the Ministry of Social Affairs and keep your eyes on it. It could make a difference to you, more than to us.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher