Yemen and Gulf States: need for each other or countdown to danger [Archives:2007/1116/Local News]

December 31 2007

Mohammed Bin Sallam
[email protected]

Yemenis' relations with people of the Persian Gulf or the so-called now Arabian Gulf states date back to the times of exodus from Yemen to other countries following collapse of Marib Dam and the Islamic conquests. Observers can realize these facts very evidently via the Yemeni characteristics spreading in all the Gulf states without an exception, even in Iraq, or the eastern part of the Persian Gulf.

One can say that Yemen enjoys an everlasting and fatal relation with the Gulf States. Having a quick glance at the Yemen-Gulf relations, it appears that such relations occupy rank below the mid point between publicity and privacy although relations in the meantime started to develop and prosper slowly in some spheres, specifically after Yemen conceded the areas of Najran, Jaizan and Assir, as well as the Empty Quarter to Saudi Arabia in 2000.

Recently, Yemen has been engaged in many institutions of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was considered by those who are not optimistic as merely anesthetization to have Yemen under control. Also, another purpose of this, according to them, is to prevent Yemen from being integrated into a completed political and economic system or to join an alliance with Iran, the biggest state in the Gulf. Iran has been attempting hard to attract Yemen economically and politically to its side and separate it from the Arabian Peninsula, but such an Iranian offer was turned down by the Gulf people who rushed to attract Yemen to their side, according to observers.

As known to everyone, Yemen is an important country in the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf and the Horn of Africa since it has large population and good geographic location. Also, the Arab state is expected to have a vital role in the security, stability and future of the region, in addition to the various mutual strategic interests between Yemen and its neighbors.

Many leaders of the small Gulf states unanimously agree that Yemen's political and economic stability is key to development of the whole region, and its admission into GCC will help maintain balance and ensure that giants (like Saudi Arabia) can not have dominance over small states in the region.

Qualify Yemen economically:

With regard to qualifying Yemen to cope with economies of the Gulf states, the country still has at least two decades before it to reach such a great goal, according to politicians and economists. The funds pledged by the various Gulf states during the Donor Conference in London resemble some food put in higher place and is difficult for anyone to approach it, said economic experts. They added that the pledged funds imposed conditions, which are so difficult for Sana'a regime to meet during a limited distance of time amid its critical situation.

Though so far elusive, the GCC membership Yemen aspires to would certainly give the country an economic boost, putting it in the mindset of investors and vesting improving the prospects for non-oil growth, according to economic analysts closely observing Yemen's efforts to join the Gulf bloc. The term 'poor relation' could have been invented for Yemen, a structurally weak economy with only negligible oil reserves, gazing from the rough end of town at the elite club to the north.

If we question the necessity and importance of closeness between Yemen and other Gulf states, plus the future of relations between these countries, finishing the so-called project of qualifying Yemen's economy primarily depends on the Yemeni government's readiness to understand and bear in mind that qualifying its national economy is an urgent need and requires that a comprehensive reform program be carried out. This project has to start with purifying the government institutions from rampant corruption and then reforming the judicial and political systems before moving to other areas.

According to a consensus reached by politicians and economists, be they from the opposition or the government, Yemen is progressing toward an unprecedented collapse due to the poor political, economic and social situations. Consequently, before inviting the outside world including the Gulf states to help in qualifying Yemen, invest in the country and participate in building a modern and prosperous Yemen, we have to reform our home country from within. Having done this, there will be no need for conducting the above-said reforms.

The Yemeni authority should have a strong political will to reform itself and its systems, particularly as reform originates from within and doesn't come from outside. This authority should have good intent, and get rid of bureaucrats and corrupt officials with the presence of whom, Yemen will never enjoy stability and prosperity, nor can it even lag after the poorest countries in the world.

If we talk about the outcomes of qualifying Yemen's economy and the necessity of doing this, this ultimately will be in favor of both parties: Yemenis and Gulf people. We in Yemen will feel the necessity of qualifying our national economy, not because we want to be integrated into the GCC bloc. But, the main reason is that we are in an urgent need for such an economic qualification and this is part of our need for the help of others at the regional, Arab and international levels, as well as others' need for us, thanks to the country's geo-strategic location and its large population. Yemen's human resources will be at least of some help to other small Gulf states that rely mostly on the eastern Asian and western workforce.

“As Yemen remains isolated from other rich states in the Gulf, the poor country is possible to turn into a terrorist weapon targeting the Gulf states at first, particularly in case its poverty grows severer, said many strategic experts.

Analytical summary:

Yemen, the Arabian Gulf and states of the Arabian Peninsula constitute a harmonious tissue where all the formation constituents unify and embody unity of such a civilized structure, along with the uniformity of its historic, geographic, cultural, economic and social conditions.

The various changes and their consequences stress the necessity of paving the way toward the future, even if they have become more appropriate in the meantime. They necessarily require expediting the formation of cooperative cartels and planning for the coming periods of time with the aim of entering a future unifying all these countries under a new strategic frame.

The initiative made by the six Gulf states at Muscat Summit in 2001, during which Yemen was welcomed as a member in many of (not all) the GCC institutions, and what followed at Riyadh Summit in 2003 and Abu Dhabi Summit in 2005, which approved the formation of a special committee to work on qualifying Yemen's economy and integrating the Arab country into the GCC cartel by the advent of 2015, all came to meet an urgent need of high concern to the whole region.

The numerous challenges encountered by peoples in Yemen and the Gulf necessitates that all the states of the region formulate a unified vision to bring about a regional solidarity coalition able to meet any international challenges. This coalition should contain all the demands of the future, as well as what is required by the shared characteristics and common denominators of the past, present and future. Only this can ensure extensive work and a serious move toward economic integration and cooperation in a way strengthening political, economic and social stability. Additionally, such a coalition is expected to cancel all the differences between Yemen and other Gulf states, and achieve effective components for Yemen's full entry into GCC, particularly as this country enjoys the best strategic location in the region.

This is a fact that can never be overcome by the equations of history, geography, the present and the future, coupled with the objective factors that necessitate Yemen's accession into the Gulf cartel. This accession has become a must due to privileges of rights neighborhood and demands of the time, according to official data released by specialized research and study centers.

When we review the obstacles and causes that hindered Yemen's entry into GCC, we will find that they are galore, mainly as Saudi Arabia has been excessively desirous of possessing some Yemeni lands since 1928. The kingdom attained this objective under the current system of government. Consequently, it was impossible for Yemen to be welcomed to the Gulf cartel without abandoning those lands to Saudi Arabia.

Yemen had never thought about joining GCC since its establishment because the country was convinced that its offer will be turned down due to those reasons. Despite all this, it made a bid for GCC membership in 1996, but such a bid was rejected due to wrong accounts, revealed some political analysts.

Had we had reviewed both parties' interests related with Yemen's admission to the Gulf cartel, we would have found that some of these interests are logical and achievable while others are difficult to achieve due to numerous factors, the most important of which is the lack of economic, social and political balance, according to the Gulf people's viewpoints.

However, many hopefuls still have faith in the ability to remove all the barriers that prevent Yemen from making interests related with its accession into GCC such as the entry of Yemeni laborers into the rich Gulf states. These hopefuls are of the opinion that removing such barriers may help at least restore some of the work opportunities that had been once available for Yemenis in the past, specially as the Yemeni government view the just-said work opportunities as a redeemer or rescuer to help it overcome the increasing unemployment rates among citizens, estimated at 45 percent by official scores. Unemployment in Yemen appeared to represent a horrible ghost threatening the Yemeni society and warning it of numerous social and political problems.

In addition to the work opportunities available for the Yemeni workforce, citizens of the poor country still pin a great hope that strong relations between Yemen and other Gulf states may boost investment in their country, thereby helping the national economy to recover, create more job opportunities inside the country and contribute to improving citizens' living standards.

Regarding the Gulf interests, as viewed by economists, Yemen has a broad market receiving Gulf products that are superior to any domestic commodities in terms of quality and specifications. Also, Yemen may provide a service for the Gulf states to utilize its human resources in the military institutions of those states that need a strong force, which may not be available in their territory due to their small populations, to protect their territories and wealth. Currently, some Gulf states, like Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are recruiting Yemeni citizens as soldiers in their military and security institutions.

Yemen's investment climate:

Having a cursory look at Yemen's investment climate, one can notice that there are multiple issues that need to be addressed immediately, such as fighting bureaucracy and enhancing transparency in dealing with investors. Also, the Yemeni government needs to review its current judicial system and its procedures, improve its capacity and develop its human resources and their skills. Career development can be attained via setting up clear strategies with specific procedures aimed at marketing surplus workforce to several Gulf states, taking into considerations these countries' demand for laborers. In addition, skilled human resources will constitute an important factor for attracting foreign investments into the country.

Initiating joint investment projects between the private sectors of Yemen and the other Gulf states necessitates good support for mutual trade between both sides, as well as removing all the administrative obstacles and the artificial barriers posed to investment activities.

In conclusion, I realized that there is a need for a civilized dialogue between educated people from Yemen and the Gulf states to focus on the future of relations between both sides. But, in fact such a dialogue doesn't exist, and in case it exists, it usually discusses futile matters. We need a real normalization between Yemen and other Gulf states, the elite of which see Yemenis as merely poor and starving people.