Yemen unsafe for investment [Archives:2006/950/Front Page]

May 29 2006

Mohammed Al-Jabri
SANA'A, May 28 – Dr. Ralf Dreyer, European Commission Charge d' Affaires in Sana'a, affirmed that Yemen is unsafe for both foreign and local investment. “You need local as well as foreign investment. Unfortunately, until now, Yemen doesn't seem safe and funds will not go to places where it's unsafe. In order to attract funding, there should be more confidence in the country's economic and political system.”

For her part, Avril Doyle, European Parliament delegation vice president, said Yemen doesn't have conditions to attract foreign investment, as there's no confidence in its economic system. “There are rich Yemenis who don't invest in Yemen, which means they don't trust the economic system. Foreign investors don't have confidence in Yemen's economy.”

Regarding elections, European Parliament delegation president Tobias Pfluger clarified that the European Parliament delegation is very much interested in the upcoming elections, particularly local elections.

“It's important to look to the coming elections, as we are parliamentarians, and we think local elections are most important. We've met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and asked him if he'll be a candidate and he said he's not. But then he said he wants to come to Brussels next time, so we think we'll see him re-elected as president.”

Meanwhile, Pfluger stressed that both the government's party and opposition parties invited the delegation to send a mission to observe the elections; however, he warned that such a mission won't come unless given full freedom to visit places it wants. “Both the government's party and opposition parities asked us to send an observation mission, but it won't come on election day. It's a long-term mission and will report the election process situation to the European Union and European Commission. There's a very important point in that it won't come unless allowed to visit the places it wants to go.”

Dreyer added that elections must be fair and must show the Yemeni government's determination to go for democracy. “The observation mission will give Yemen a chance to show that it's able to organize more fair elections. We're not here to intervene in favor of one party or another; rather, we're interested in the organization of running fair elections.”

Pfluger noted that the delegation also heard of some problems regarding elections preparation and will check such information. He said elections should be conducted fairly and objectively and that both the ruling and opposition parties should have the same access to the media. He also stressed the importance of forming an election committee in an objective manner.

Dreyer warned that Yemen will face future difficulties, most notably regarding population growth. “One of the indicators in the next 20 years is that Yemen's population will double. On one hand, the population growth rate should be reduced and on the other, Yemenis need job opportunities and income. To that end, we need investment but funds won't go to places where it's safe.”

Poverty and corruption were among topics mentioned in the press conference. Pfluger said by conducting field visits to streets and meeting with citizens on the street, the delegation noticed poverty. He called on Yemen to fight corruption because, “When corruption increases, we can't send development funds to Yemen.”

He also noted a problem related to organizing education, saying education shouldn't be centered in main cities, but should include all areas of Yemen.

Pfluger called on Yemen's government to implement agreements signed with the EU in the field of democracy and human rights, adding that such agreements shouldn't “stay on paper.” He also discussed the death penalty cases of Al-Ma'amri and Amina with the Minister of Human Rights and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. “For the European Union and Parliament, the death penalty is unacceptable as a legal solution. It gives Yemen a bad image. We hope they'll find solutions to this case.”

Regarding democracy, Doyle affirmed that Yemen has come a very long way in a very short time. “Democracy is not all about elections, but also about the role of human rights. I think a lot of effort is being made with the new reform agenda; however, it's not completed yet. To be fully democratic, government and indeed opposition parties must represent all people, not only males.”

Pfluger pointed out that Yemen's democracy is the best in relation to Gulf countries, adding that press freedom is very important. “We heard news that some journalists were imprisoned in special prisons. We support freedom of press.” He wondered, saying, “Will all parties have the same chance to express their opinions in the media during the coming elections?”

In this regard, Dreyer hoped Yemen would construct a press law conforming to international standards.

The European Parliament delegation paid a five-day visit to Yemen, during which it held discussions with President Saleh, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Human Rights, the Speaker of Parliament, the Shoura Council speaker and opposition parties.