Unplanned Imports: A Real Threat on National Wealth [Archives:2001/06/Business & Economy]

February 5 2001

Mahyoub Al-Kamali
Yemen is gifted with appreciable national wealth. However, this wealth seems to be affected by the blind imports of similar products which help weaken the tendency to utilize or invest in the national wealth.
Aside from oil and gas exploration there are still a lot of economic resources which suffer unplanned production. For example, Yemen imports about 400 tons of salt per year while studies show possibilities of increasing the national production of salt to 150, 000 tons per year. Ironically, Yemen exports raw salt to foreign markets and imports industrialized salt, in spite of the great volume of salt it possesses. It is a pity to feel that salt importers prefer propagating foreign industries even at the expense of the national wealth. Studies also show that Yemen enjoys great reservoirs of glass sand which will, if exploited properly, help Yemen achieve a state of self-reliance and enable it to export the surplus to foreign markets.
More than 150 thousand tons of gypsum are imported annually, ignoring billions of tons of the best kind of gypsum reservoirs available in the country. This and many other stories necessitate reconsideration of import policies.
Some may say import policies are based on the free market and the new changes of globalization. Those should realize the real threat unplanned import imposes on the development of Yemens production.
Yemen has through history been famous for production of precious stones such as onyx. There are more than 40 kinds of precious stones in Yemen. Despite this fact, one feels shocked to see the large amounts of Indian and Iranian agates in our local market which have caused recession in onyx production.
Cement is a similar story. Although Yemen has three huge cement plants which are able to meet the increasing demands of local market, thousands of tons of cement are annually imported.
One can recite more examples of wasted national resources because of the carelessness of some importers. For these reasons imports must be properly controlled and directed in a way that does not harm or affect the national economic wealth.