We and reforms in Yemen (6) [Archives:2004/758/Opinion]

July 26 2004

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz Altarb
For Yemen Times

Reforms begin with modernization and change, modernization should coincide with every new development, in order to keep up with what's going on in the world. We in Yemen need a revolutionary set of reforms, in the broad sense of the definition of reforms. The reforms strategy must not be limited to slogans, chanted on special occasions. At the same time, we do not want the general public to lose the enthusiasm that has arisen since the President's declaration of his campaign to fight corruption wherever it might be.
Mr. President, we need a new type of government and a responsible press. We want the government to sense that it is being monitored by another alternative government-in-waiting, and that there is another government waiting to take over and to commence missions and duties when the current government fails to effectively carry its required duties. We want a standby government that is setting itself up to bear the responsibilities the other has failed to carry out. We want everyone to have a sense of responsibility and to compete and to be innovative for the best interest of society, that is if we really want to catch up with others ahead of us.
We do not want to feel that the changes are limited to only changing ministers, ineffective by-laws and primitive concepts, but also includes encouraging a new government with claws, that could fight corruption, bureaucracy, and handover 'corrupts' to the judiciary, to receive the punishment they deserve in accordance with effective laws. A government that would be able to attract new investment, to alleviate poverty, to improve living conditions and to build the trust and confidence of the public, and raising expectations of a brighter future. A government that would reconsider the ill and ineffective policies with the aim of rectifying the deficiencies it encounters. A government that would sincerely launch giant projects, which would make a difference to the economy. The public does not want to feel that there is a long way ahead before achieving that. We want to prepare for a more honest and fairer local councils, parliamentary and presidential elections.
After 14 years since the unification of the country, and ten years of governance by the ruling party, ordinary citizens want to see genuine changes at all levels, so that they can believe in the rhetoric, the promises and the truth of intentions that are proclaimed in carnivals and on special occasions. They have had enough of chaos, price hikes and lack of security in their daily lives.
We agree and admit that previous crises have influenced every aspect and thus, changes include persons, mentality and perceptions. Civic society organizations and civil liberties must be encouraged and supported. They are the prerequisites to achieving a strong and viable economy.
We want each minister to be independent and yet accountable for all of his actions. We want ministers and heads of banks and corporations to be leaders and not employers. The first reform measure must be to implement a free market economy in reality, that would be based on organized and well-prepared policies, not just what some randomly call for. Regrettably this is utterly absent and subsequently, the changes continue to be merely related to individuals, places and based on the same policy. I bet that the sought changes would come as to meet the desire of the public. But it is important to have an awareness of the importance of having and handling them wisely. Any crisis that arises must be confronted immediately and effectively rather than waiting and prolonging its remedy for years. Problems such as an ineffective educational system; a government that controls media organizations; an economy that lacks practical mechanisms to revive it; and crippled political parties with only marginal freedom have led to a lose of trust and confidence in the government and its performance. In contrast, organizations have offered suggestions and solutions to emerge from this situation on many occasions. The participation of the private sector is critical when preparing for, or before introducing, new legislation related to reformation, in order to avoid any discrepancies or conflicts of interest.
I strongly believe that the keys to reformation and modernization of Yemen lay in the hands of the President. I would present the following points that constitute a threshold to conduct changes whenever he wants to commence to do so:
– Adopting an effective and efficient administrative reform program.
– Creating trust between the banking sector and clients, importers, and investors and easing policing and monitoring measures against employees at the banking sector.
– undertaking privatization programs by rates that coincide with economic growth, including the privatization of certain government funding banks and companies and allotting shares for employees working in them.
– Intensifying efforts to diagnose the reasons behind the current markets stagnation with the aim to find remedies to come out from it.
– working to create legislation stability and judicial reform that could decisively settle disputes especially those against state corporations and corrupt civil and military officials.
We also demand the development and promotion of exports through some urgent measures, the most of which are:
– Tax exemptions for locally produced or manufactured goods for export.
– Reducing custom tariffs on heavy transportation vehicles.
– Fully implementing a fast and prompt response system.
– Organizing the various importation procedures at customs and tax authorities and surtaxes on agricultural related components, and regularly updating them.
– The importance of enacting laws relating to merged companies, competition and baring monopolies and fraudulent traders.

We also demand opening of a national conciliation dialogue and the holding of an economic conference to present problems in order to find solutions. We need to change our methodology and mentality as we are not against any specific person but rather against random policies. I am still worried about our economy following a period of austerity the country had to go through in recent years.
Therefore, commencing a reform operation quickly would assist in remedying a number of problems as soon as possible before they require more difficult measures to treat or they become difficult to overcome.
We, Mr. President, want an end to the states of apathy, arrogance and extravagant expenditures despite the sufferings and difficult economic hurdles. I think we spend as a state more than what our economic condition permits. This is a catastrophe we have to face now.
Last but not least, we regret that nobody reacts unless the President interferes. The President of the country has special missions to attend to, and he should not be distracted all the time with the things conducted by the government. But where is the government?
This is why Mr. President is urged to interfere and to launch his program against bureaucracy and corrupts and to appoint capable leaders to assist him in translating his words into deeds. Will he do that soon? The general public is waiting!