Yemen: a thriving business or a lost opportunity? [Archives:2005/841/Viewpoint]

May 12 2005

Is Yemen a country for treasure hunt or is it a doomed nation? Ironically it could be both at the same time. For what is an opportunity for some, could be a lost chance for others. Using this formula, and judging by the economic, social, political and cultural indicators it becomes clear that the majority of the Yemeni people are on the losing end. Hence, it's not difficult to guess who the winners are.

Yemen today is going through a transition phase. During transitions new layers of the society appear to the surface while others subside, exactly the same way new wealth is made. For example, during the trade strategy that imposed restrictions on importing in the early eighties many merchants lost their businesses and suddenly there were new names in the business area. Today new strategies come to light: the sales tax, lifting oil subsidies while no improvement of basic services takes place. Is the scenario of the eighties going to be repeated again during this transition phase? It is strikingly painful to see the absurd consequences of the sales tax already being in effect even before the law has been put to action. The price of basic commodities has risen by almost 50%; prices of sugar, rice, cooking oil, even rents increased in anticipation of the sales tax. What happens to the poor people who barely made ends meet in the past? We are talking about more then 70% of the population.

While the state turns left and right seeking to join the GCC and WTO and God knows what else, people are losing hope in just surviving. The so-called economic reforms are firing back and the problem is not the reforms, it is the blind insensitive implementation of the reform programs without consideration of the particularities of the country and its lack of basic infrastructures and managing systems.

While this mess accumulates, new faces are appearing on the TV screen and media with new businesses being launched. If it was true that Yemen is the least developed country in the region then how come these new businesses are thriving? The investment laws maybe relatively good but the real life applications repel any investor and send them away even before knocking on the nation's door. If that is the case, then whose are the new thriving businesses? What is being paid so that they can go on while others are not able to even get a license or import raw material without losing a fortune. There are many questions that come to mind when seeing the number of poor people becoming poorer while the wealthy becoming wealthier.

Who's responsible for this economic mess? Even if we know them – and we do- who would hold them accountable?!