Yemen needs political will to fight corruption, experts say [Archives:2007/1049/Front Page]

May 10 2007

By: Mohammed Al-Jabri
SANA'A, May 9 – Yemeni parliamentarians, experts and analysts say Yemen needs real political will to fight corruption because establishing anti-corruption committees and issuing laws won't work without serious will on the part of the current regime.

This came during a Wednesday meeting in Sana'a of Arab Region Parliamentarians Against Corruption. The two-day meeting, entitled Parliamentarian Ethics and Contradiction of Interests, was organized by Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption. Members of Parliament from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Algeria participated.

Shoura Council member Mohammed Al-Afandi said political reform is necessary for successful economic reform, as well as upholding social and economic development levels.

“Stopping and preventing corruption can be achieved only by real political reform. Peaceful transfer of power is the bridge to guarantee eradicating corruption and the way to achieve high development growth and eradicate poverty, unemployment and misuse of state wealth,” Al-Afandi said, warning that without these measures, corruption will lead to devastating consequences for the state and society alike.

Economists and analysts say corruption is a large obstacle to Yemen's development and responsible for deterring 50 percent of development projects. Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index for 2006 placed Yemen at 111 out of 163 countries.

MP Sakhr Al-Wajeeh, chief of YPAC, said corruption deters development in all fields, especially in Third World countries, including Yemen. He noted that although the Yemeni government has issued two laws on financial liability and corruption, there's a need for a political will to implement them. “Establishing anti-corruption authorities and committees isn't enough without the political will that urges eradicating corruption,” he added.

The Yemeni government has indicated that it has achieved tremendous reforms within the past two years; for example, launching an extensive anti-corruption campaign in 2006 in six major cities to raise awareness about the danger of corruption, in addition to issuing financial liability and bidding and tender laws.

“The government has taken positive steps to fight corruption,” Deputy Minister of Planning Mohammed Al-Haweri affirmed, “and the role of judiciary also has been enhanced.”

However, YPAC members criticized the Yemeni government for not providing information on the extent of corruption in Yemen, as well as for lack of transparency.

Bilqis Al-Lahabi, a member of the Civil Society Coalition, noted, “A few days after being appointed prime minister, Ali Mujawar said the Central Apparatus for Control and Audit has provided insufficient information on corruption. Junior employees' corruption files are put before Parliament, while the files of the state's high-ranking officials are submitted to the president.”

Civil society's role

At the meeting, participants pointed out that corruption affects the poor and civil society can play a significant role to help stem this problem. Yemen is classified one of the world's poorest counties, with 43 percent of its 21 million inhabitants living below the poverty line.

“Civil society can contribute in the fight against corruption because it represents the most affected social class, the poor,” Al-Lahabi explained.

However, she made it clear that civil society is controlled by an “oppressive state,” as in other Arab states. “Security authorities still interfere both directly and indirectly in the affairs of civil society organizations,” she added.

Yemen's Ministry of Social Affairs estimates 3,000 civil society organizations nationwide.