“When will the Situation Get Better?” [Archives:2001/25/Viewpoint]

June 18 2001

At Yemen Times, we always receive letters from Yemenis in exile, most of them expressing the sadness and despair regarding what Yemen has come to in terms of economy, education, health, and many other aspects. Those letters ask questions like “What has gone wrong with our country?” “Why aren’t we developing?” “What is it that we are lacking?” “Why are others better than us?” etc.
The least which could be said to these readers is that all their questions are 100% legitimate. From all that we hear, we conclude that there has been and there continues to be a reason to feel concerned about Yemen’s future by all Yemenis living abroad. To see why those Yemenis feel concerned, we need to look at the questions and try to obtain answers for each of them. To be more precise, let’s take the above questions one by one.
What has gone wrong with our country?
This is a question often asked by those who left the country in the 1980s and came back in the late 1990s or after 2000. They compare the situation of Yemen today with that of 15 or 20 years ago. A comprehensive answer to this question could consume much of this column’s space, but I could briefly answer by saying that Yemen underwent tens of crisis, problems, and challenges in the last 11 years. Those include the costs of unification and maintaining unification, the 1994 civil war, the Gulf War, the return of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from neighboring countries, plus many other factors. Adding insult to injury, the Yemeni government by then was somewhat dependent on foreign aid for financing many of its institutes and projects. When the aid was halted, everything was affected. Hence, it is obvious that there was little preparation to handle such disasters, which constitutes a true point of weakness in the way the country was managed.
Why aren’t we developing?
All international NGOs and institutes assert that the issue relating to underutilization of human resources is the main cause of concern in Yemen. Qualified people have not been given the opportunity to run the different governmental departments efficiently. Not only that, but many of the rulers who managed the country’s affairs are actually crooks. How can we then expect substantial development?
What is it that we are lacking?
Indeed, what are we lacking? We have natural resources, a labor force, vast stretches of land, a strategic location, and many other features not available in many of the neighboring countries. However, we must admit that we lack honest and qualified decision-makers to take full advantage of the resources and divert public funds to developmental projects rather than to pockets of some high-ranking crooks. We lack the political will and ability to take decisive steps to investigate where the public funds are going and where the revenues are being used. This again is mainly due to the lack of administrative skills to institutionalize the different sectors of the government, and bring to an end the embezzlement of public funds coming from revenues of natural resources.
Why are others better than us?
The above three answers automatically answer this question. The reasons are not far away. Just look at Yemen’s neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula. There is a wide gap between Yemen and those countries in terms of wealth and modernization. They are better than us because they were able to enforce the law and bring about qualified and honest managers in charge of the country’s affairs, rather than a dishonest cadre of officials who know little about running the country’s affairs. What I mean here is that we will always be behind unless we put the genuinely qualified people at the helm of affairs to replace the old, crooked, unqualified personnel for the sake of the country’s development.
Those are just a few of the questions that clearly indicate some of the concerns of countless Yemenis living in different parts of the world. Those Yemenis do want to come back to their native country, but have vowed to not do so until the situation becomes better. But “When will the situation get better?” is yet another question that those Yemenis in exile frequently ask.
Frankly speaking, even I don’t know the answer to this question!