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D’you Know What? or What I Know About Yemen

January 6, 2010

I am sick of hearing about airport security.  I have been on a plane once (well twice if you count there and back) and have absolutely no interest in a journo who managed to get a can of hairspray onto a plane.  I would be very interested if I had heard news reports of Gazamom’s or Viva Palestina’s travel restrictions,but hey – no chance of that happening anytime soon. Every time I listen to the radio I can’t help thinking fuck off with manipulating the news to what the ruling classes require.  But oh yes, the ‘not news’ I’m listening to does so conveniently link to the imperialistic march into Yemen.  So the security forces let somebody onto a plane with explosives – do we think this was accidental?  Of course it bloody wasn’t.  It’s propaganda against a made up foe.   The only surprising thing here is that Abdulmutallab has been charged by federal authorities, and not whisked away and held as an enemy combatant.  Slight mistake there!

In actual news:   

Torture Camp Guantánamo is still open for business on it’s hostages.  Including a large number of men from Yemen:   

 Yemenis make up nearly half of the remaining 198 prisoners in Guantánamo, and until these six men were repatriated [December 2009], only 16 Yemenis had been freed from Guantánamo throughout the prison’s long history.   

Please read Andy Worthington’s post linked to above as he clearly shows how anyone can be incarcerated for absolutely no reason, and held hostage for many years with no recourse for justice.  Of course Yemen has a terrible human rights record, but who can anyone from the regime torturing Yemini’s in Guantánamo have the gall to even squeak a criticism?

A child dies every 3.5 seconds – that’s a whole human life lost every 3.5 seconds just because we prefer money to life.  Including children in Yemen:   

the death rates of newborns and children aged 1-4 are among the highest in the world. The family health survey (2003) reported that 82.4% of deaths are between 0-1 years of age, and 32.5% are between 1-4 years of age. Diseases such as Malaria, Typhoid, and Diarrhea remain major causes of death. 

Over 90% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, the majority because of no access to essential medical care and a life of poverty.  Including women in Yemen:

in Yemen. “About 42 percent of women at the reproductive age lose their lives in the process of giving birth”

We never learn from history or get sick of imperialism – including in Yemen:   

Developments in the 19th century were fateful for Yemen. The determination of various European powers to establish a presence in the Middle East elicited an equally firm determination in other powers to thwart such efforts. For Yemen, the most important participants in the drama were the British, who took over Aden in 1839, and the Ottoman Empire, which at mid-century moved back into North Yemen, from which it had been driven by the Yemenis two centuries earlier.  

the number of Yemeni immigrants had reached 1.5 million prior to 1990, most of whom settled in the neighboring oil states, especially Saudi Arabia. Their remittances had contributed significantly to the improvement of the living standards of their families at home, and generally boasted Yemen’s economy.  However, as a result of the Second Gulf Crisis, Yemen became scene to one of the  largest influxes of returning expatriates. The number of those suddenly returning from the Gulf States within a short period of time was estimated at 800,000, most of who came from Saudi Arabia. This resulted in many adverse effects and several problems for both the returnees and the national economy.

Every poor country that is strategically useful to the ruling class is subjected to shock doctrine tactics, with the help of the IMF and WB.  Including Yemen:

Negative economic impacts [of the “Economic Reform Program (ERP) which the Yemeni government adopted beginning in March 1995.”]

  The architects of the economic reform program assumed that the problems of the Yemeni economy consisted primarily of government deficits, negative balance of payments, sharp fluctuations in the value of the Yemeni rial and the existence of an inefficient and unproductive public sector. Based upon these assumptions the economic reform program anticipated that simply relieving the pressure on the balance of payments, reducing the government deficit through cutting expenditure and cutting government subsidies, making social services cost effective and privatizing the public sector would achieve domestic accord and general economic equilibrium. The program assumes that simply freeing market forces from government regulation and closing inefficient public sector businesses will allow these market forces to mobilize and establish the proper levels of investment, production, consumption, importation and exports in light of current resource endowments. The program ignores that the deeper roots of the economic crisis which are not restricted to financial and monetary policy, but rather these are merely symptoms on the surface of more fundamental and ongoing contradictions and difficulties in the material production and political system. These are, in brief, the major negative aspects of the economic reform program.

  • In looking at the recessive nature of the economic program, it is clear that local producers cannot survive policies which place a heavy burden upon local consumers through a deteriorAAation in local wage rates. As a result, local producers are faced with slow markets and reduced demand for their products which in turn inhibits local productive capacity, causes closures of productive units, and increases unemployment. For example, twenty eight industrial units have closed in the past two years in Sana’a, Taizz, Aden and Hodeida and seven more factories are expected to close in the latter part of this year. In short, more 20% of Yemeni industry has declared bankruptcy during the period of implementation of ERP. The government anticipates the loss of 2.5 billion rial in taxes as a result of these closures and the loss of twelve billion rial in wages. Five thousand industrial workers amounting to 10% of the total industrial workforce are expected to lose their jobs.
  • Raising the local production costs (which some sources estimate rose at the rate of 150-250%) will not only reduce local demand, but will also destroy the marginal, but important, Yemeni exports in competitive international markets. In spite of the slight rise of 8% in non-oil exports in 1995, non-oil exports rose by less than 1% in 1997 and agricultural exports actually declined. The reduction of exports has been accompanied by a sharp rise in imports. Imports reached 1,522 billion US dollars in 1994 and climbed to 2,314 billion in 1997. Food imports alone rose from US $427 million to 805 million. Consequently, the projection that structural adjustment and devaluing the national currency will strengthen the competitiveness of local producers and will stimulate exports has not born fruit at this point in time. This projection about local response to policies designed to simulate local exports is dependent upon the following factors:

1. International demand for local production.

2. The existence of excess capacity or unemployed resources

3. The ability of local producers to be competitively flexible in terms of cost and quality.

4. The existence of an appropriate environment for investment to stimulate local production.

The question of investment has not made any significant progress. Investment is a principle condition for growth and the lack of investment in Yemen has been due to the lack of an appropriate environment for investments. The FIAS report for Yemen of June 1997 states that “..constrained public budget, low income level, decentralized population and difficult physical environment; under-developed legal system and weak institutional capacity; under-developed local capital markets; and (most critically) Yemen’s high political risk rating, as well as….(the fact that) the state, the government of Yemen is still viewed as weak, unreliable and lacking credibility.”

Consequently direct foreign investment outside the oil sector is virtually non-existent, in spite of good investment opportunities. Direct foreign investment is a stillborn hope for the local non-oil sector in this frustrating environment. As an illustration, the kidnapping of tourists has taken a direct toll on the promising tourist industry in Yemen. Sixty four cases of foreign hostage taking have occurred since April 1991 and 54% of these have taken place in the area of the capital city, Sana’a. Yemeni officials do not attempt to conceal the lack of security in their country. The minister of legal affairs responding to a question about lawlessness in Yemen from the political weekly, al-Magala, said “…that is true to a large extent. We have laws but we recognize that we are weak in implementing our laws.” It is true that the Yemeni government is undertaking great efforts to reform the bureaucratic structure and organization in Yemen, but the challenges in this field are huge and the time needed for such fundamental reforms lengthy.

The rate of real economic growth in the non-oil sector is still less than the rate of growth of population which is an additional reflection of the recessive nature of the economic reform program. For example, the rate of real growth of agriculture (without qat) the main productive sector – was – 2.2 during 1995-1997, taking into consideration that qat production constitutes more than 30% of agricultural production. Indeed, the production of agricultural crops has collapsed during 1995-1997. The total product of cereals declined from 881 thousand ton in 1995 to 712 thousand in 1997, wheat production declined from 171 thousand to 129 within the same period. This economic recession is seen in the reduction of private consumer demand due to declining income, in the lack of proper atmosphere to attract foreign investment, in fair competition with international companies and in the move of domestic capital out of productive enterprises and into commercial activities and agencies of foreign companies since the policies freeing trade and annulling currency restrictions has raised profits in this sector. Consequently, complete economic collapse is not an impossibility in the near future if this equation is not altered.

There has been a dramatic decline in the real income levels stemming from falling wage rates. This has contributed to a deterioration of consumer demand at the same time that prices have risen as a result of the liberalization of consumer prices and currency markets and the reduction of subsidies on basic consumer items.

There has been a constant widening of those falling in poverty categories from 21% in 1992 to 33% in 1996. This rate is growing continuously in Yemen with a similar rise in unemployment, the principle source of poverty.

The expenditure for education and health has been reduced from 19.2% for education in 1994 to 16% of total government expenditure, and for health from 3.5% to 3.3% within the same period, in contrast of what was being said in the ERP. Taking into consideration that 50% of population illiterate and 70% of them without health care, we could imagine the effect of this reduction

The sharp contradiction between the fast pace of the reforms and the structural adjustment and the slow pace of judicial, administrative and bureaucratic reforms makes the fruits of the reforms limited. The danger of falling into a new crisis, perhaps one even more violent, as a result of the lack of foreign investment, of the widening recession, of the widening and deepening circle of poverty, exhaustion of local productive capacities (raising taxes, cutting subsidies and freeing prices), of the depletion of foreign resources (operating loans, aid, and grants), is a real probability.

It is enough that we remind that those carrying out the reforms, including those in the World Bank itself, of the statements made in the report of the World Bank in its yearly meeting held in Hong Kong on the 23-26 of September 1997: “In the absence of an effective state it is impossible to produce any economic or social progress… and without protection from theft and violence and repressive behavior by the state and without a fair judiciary which is able to enforce its rulings, it is difficult for markets to grow and develop.

(sorry – couldn’t help it)

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