Last Updated: Fri May 25, 2012 11:17 am (KSA) 08:17 am (GMT)

Saving Yemen from disaster

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

Yemen’s exports are not much. They consist of about 200,000 barrels of oil daily, a little natural gas, few coffee beans and salted fish. For this reason, the annual government budget is less than $ 6 billion. Yemen has a population of a little over 24 million, of whom 45 percent are under the poverty line according to international statistics.

What can we understand from this data about the country’s economic condition?

Ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh left power a rich man, leaving behind a country poorer than when he first came to power more than 30 years ago.
Anyway, it is not wise to blame the past for everything. The Yemeni people have a great opportunity to build their present and future after they have achieved a great change with little losses. Who could have believed that Saleh would quit and transfer power peacefully without a civil war as many people were fearing?

In a Riyadh meeting on Wednesday, the “Friends of Yemen” pledged aid to the tune of $ 4 billion to Yemen, the bulk of which would be met by Saudi Arabia. Two months later another conference of donor countries will be held on Yemen. Everybody agrees that aid to the Yemeni people is coming at the right time and before the arrival of the social disaster that economists have recently warned about. They said Yemen was on the brink of serious famine and that its resources, including surface water, were depleting.

In the midst of this wreck, the future is not that bad if the new government in Yemen was able to restructure the country and made use of the internal forces who were willing to cooperate in order to overcome this predicament. Even al-Qaeda, which has spread in Yemen like cancer, will not succeed in a country that is tribally coherent and religiously moderate. In such a country, al-Qaeda will ultimately be defeated.

In my opinion, the new regime and the friends and brothers of Yemen should refer the project of saving Yemen economically to international bodies who are capable of giving advice on how to help the country come out of the ditch in which it is now lying.

During the 1990s Yemen used to produce about 500,000 barrels of oil daily. Now it is only producing about 200,000 bpd and production is dwindling. With the discovery of natural gas and the correct utilization of its human resources, Yemen can build a better economy. It can be a center for the production of manpower that is now being exported by other countries to the Gulf region, thus exhausting their economies.

There is much that Yemen can do under the umbrella of a real cooperation. This was not possible during the time of former President Saleh who ignored the process of development and was known for his anarchic policies.

The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the Saudi-based Arab News on May 24, 2012

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