Tightening the noose around the poor [Archives:2003/698/Opinion]

December 29 2003

“There she goes again, our government really knows how to keep everyone happy, except its own people!”, remarked Alawi as he and his colleagues walked out of the post office after receiving their salaries, from the post office cashier.
“What do you mean happy?” exclaimed Mazen, continuing, “We have not seen happiness coming out of our government's policies since they announced the great Economic Reform Program in 1995. Come to think of it, the last time anyone saw something worthy of happiness was Unification Day, when we actually thought that Yemen's problems were at last over!”
Alawi, stuck to the economic issues: “I am not sure how our Government has the galls to continue throwing all the burdens on an already fatigued citizenry. Just think, announcing price hikes on such essential commodities as wheat and flour – the daily bread that represents the last thread that keeps us tied to merely surviving! As it is, the salaries that we government employees are getting are hardly enough to cover the utility bills: water – if you are lucky to have a connection, electricity – with all the bonus blackout hours, and telephone. If you are living on rented housing, then the tightrope becomes a stainless steel blade!”
This talk paved the way for Salim to open his constantly critical mouth: “he astounding thing to me and most people is that the very same people announcing these great economic measures are living light-years away from the vast majority of the struggling population of Yemen and most of their subordinates in the Government Administrative Structure. They never feel any of the awesome strain that most of us have to go through while trying to balance our monthly household budget.”
Alawi cut in: “Do you really go through this high league financial exercise? There is just never any way you can get the numbers to balance even if your abacus was as big as the Kuala Lumpur Towers. By the time anyone of us reaches home today, half the salary would have already been dished out to all the few remaining creditors that are still kind enough to give us credit for the most dear of essentials – such as the drinking water and 'fool mudammas” beans, that manage to just keep your children alive. God help any of us, if we had to meet an emergency situation.”
Mazen came back in the discussion: “Since, 1995, we were told that the economic reform policies were geared to set in the appropriate mechanisms that will infuse prosperity for the nation. However, the only prosperity we see is the lavish extravagance portrayed by the selected few who have found their niches in the socio-economic-political establishment that has the upper hand in running the affairs of the country and their henchmen, who never had any consciences to start with, who make it so easy for the heartless elements that make up this establishment. All the resources of the country are accessible to this select club, while the rest of the society struggles to eke out a meager subsistence level.”
Back to the outspoken member of the group: “They told us that the economic reforms will eventually set in the channels for everyone to be enabled to live a productive life and to generate the resources for achieving their dreams. It turned out that the reforms were a nightmare for the once thriving middle class that has now entered the world book of extinct species. Moreover, they instilled a deep gorge between the very few, who have achieved undreamed of wealth, without the least bit of difficulty, and the vast majority of the people who are now trying to find out which of the poverty lines they have now reached to see which of the social programs might help in bringing some alleviation to their desperate conditions. So, they removed the subsidies and channeled subsidies for themselves to ensure that for theirext five generations of heirs, poverty remains an untouchable stigma.”
Alawi, wanted to make the situation generic worldwide: “Look, you guys, you do not realize that Yemen is no more than a bona fide member of good standing in the Third World Bloc of Least Developed countries that have become under the mercy of the 'donor community'. The latter dictate their prescriptions and the governments simply follow the doses through, knowing full well that the top echelon, in these governments will not be touched by these economic strangulation measures. The truth of the matter is that only the countries that manage to squiggle their way out of donor dictated policies, like Malaysia, managed to put their economies on forward gear.”
“The fact of the matter is that Malaysia was lucky to get people in the government, who are not easily gulled into falling for the fancy econometric models and advanced communication apparatus that these donors use to draw out our extended economic policies for the next fifty years of heartbreak, which most of the officials of Third World governments lack the ability to digest, let alone find a way out of them.”, Mazen wanted to show that this is all a part of the globalization wave that is rampant and he summarized this global trend with simplicity: “Anywhere you go in this world, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.