The signs are not there [Archives:2006/987/Opinion]

October 5 2006

The observer cannot fail to recall that the Yemeni people have heard a lot of people saying that things will not be the same after the elections are over with and many almost believed that there can only be one way to go and that is forward. But as the days go by, one realizes that we have really been given the “number” as they say. Surely a democratic society deserves a lot more than to see large state dinners for the people who least need to be fed in the country or long cues of past, present and future officials waiting to shake hands with the head of state, so that by the time all the handshaking is completed, the dinner of the guests would have probably turned cold.

The truth of the matter is that if we are really going to see change, it should start with the public media. There, talk should start to be translated into meaningful action. If Yemen is embarking on a period, in which Yemen will supposedly turn a new leaf on life, the media should be the first place where the observer expects to see a reflection of the new policies that are put in place to reflect this new period. Yet, realistically, we are not seeing dramatic changes in the media to convince us that all that talk on a “new Yemen”, a “corruption-free Yemen”, a Yemen with a “dazzling future”, was no more than an attempt to mislead people into believing that even all the “President's men” are really going to make sure that at least some of these things will materialize in real life.

Unfortunately however, the official media people cannot get over their old habits of giving us absolutely boring long newscasts that extend way into the night just to see who has had the great honor of dining with His Excellency the President or reading the texts of congratulatory cables to the Head of State for: Ramadan, the Anniversary of the September Revolution, the Anniversary of the October Revolution, the Anniversary of the Withdrawal of British Troops from Aden and of course the re-election of the President. This is while most of the other satellite TV channels have already gone through three hourly newscasts already, while the Yemen TV is still on its first Evening News bulletin.

With the Government budget already on a tightrope, are all those expensive dinners for the fairly well-to-do a significant development that shows we are in the right direction of managing our meager resources and directing them to where they can be most effective in harnessing our natural and human resources to efficiently produce the economic setting that will eliminate poverty and create job opportunities. On the contrary, it is the misuse of such extravagant funds that has led to the poverty one sees so widespread throughout the land. Furthermore, there is a lack of taste apparent, when our media has to waste so many hours on such meaningless displays of opulence amidst a society in which more than half of the population have already reached the poverty line and heading down further down the abyss of misery and despair.

One economic observer said: “Yemen has so much potential: a diversified natural resources base; an excellent tourist venue, an industrious and robust labor force, an enterprising private sector, and more All that Yemen needs is a slight bit of intelligence in Government, resourcefulness in its Government apparatus, sincerity in the way public officials deal with the public, whether in official business or through the way the official media is displaying the useful work of government to an ever hungry audience for meaningful news that shows that indeed Yemen is not going to be going through the same “business as usual” attitude, which the media unabashedly is displaying these days without regards to the possible contempt this would raise amidst an already disappointed electorate.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.