The Potential [Archives:2000/14/Viewpoint]

April 3 2000

During my stay in Canada last week, I kept on being told the same sentence over and over again by most of the different people I spoke to. The sentence was “Your country has a great potential.” They explained to me how they see Yemen as a country with great potential and factors of becoming a modern and rich country in the region, just like gulf countries if not richer. However, they expressed their disappointment at us not taking advantage of the potential, and not managing the country’s resources adequately.
You may wonder what the potential of Yemen these people are talking about is. Well, even though it is difficult to mention all the potentials of the country, I will try to explain the most important of them.
Strategic Location
Yemen is the part of the Arabian Peninsula, which lies on two seas, the Arab sea in the south and the Red Sea in the West, hence controlling one of the most important routes in the world (Bab Al-Mandab.) It is also the only country in Southern Arabia, which is not in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), making it of great economic and political importance for the region as a whole. Aden Free Zone could become a very influential strategic harbor for business and trade that could effect the global and regional market if taken full advantage of.
Cheap and Efficient Labor
Being the poorest Arabian country in the region, Yemen’s average annual income is among the lowest the world. This consequently resulted in the cheap Yemeni labor. Workers in construction of buildings, for example, usually accept a daily allowance of roughly 3 dollars for a 12-hour long day work.
“Your country is a heaven on earth” is how a prominent World Bank official described Yemen. Once called the Arabian Felix, it is not unusual to think of Yemen as a tourist destination. Hundreds of thousands of local tourists visited Aden in the last Eid alone. Look at the ancient areas, the beautiful coasts, the spectacular simplicity and generosity of the Yemeni public. Add to all of these the weather. Our weather is considered among the best in the world. With a moderate temperature in winter, and a reasonably warm and sometimes rainy summer, Yemen could be the destination of tourists for its weather, let alone the other attractions. Imagine the number of tourist that would pour in from outside if this potential is well explored.
Oil and natural resources
Oil and natural resource exploration companies have declared the discoveries of gold, gas, and other resources in Yemen. Investors have their eye on Yemen, not because it lies in a strategic location only, but because it is hiding so many valuable resources in its lands.
Yemenis are smart and hard working
We are among the countries with the highest ratio of young aged people. This means that we have a whole generation of youngsters with many talents and abilities that need guidance and promotion. I have been to many countries in the world in which I see Yemeni intellectuals holding key positions and I heard testimonies saying that Yemenis are bright minded and have proven to be hard working people. Why not give more importance to this generation and encourage the talents that we witness in them?
These are some factors that show that indeed, we do have a great potential. But the main concern is how to take full advantage of the potential. Are we promoting and encouraging our young talented people? Are we promoting tourist sites, retreats, chalets, etc.? Are we taking advantage of the strategic location? Are we exploring the natural resources adequately? I am afraid we are not, at least to the extent needed. We have lots of things to do and achievements to accomplish within the coming few years, and that requires a lot of continuous hard work.
The Challenge
It is a pity that issues like kidnapping, extreme tribalism, qat, and corruption are holding us back from exploring our potentials. I agree that we have a lot of potentials, but I also would like to remind all who think so that we have several challenges, almost as many as our potentials or even more. I know that these people do not have the time and energy to solve our personal problems. In fact, it is our case, and as Yemenis we must work on it together to overcome them. Can we go back to our old “Happy Yemen”? Will Yemenis be able to raise their heads up high being proud of achieving a modern country with strong economy just as it used to be in the past? Will we be able to take advantage of Yemen’s true potential? Only time will tell.
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf               
Chief Editor