By Fernando Carvajal is a Sana’a based consultant. www.twitter.com/CarvajaF, for the Yemen Post
Much has been said against the ability of the interim government to absorb the amount of aid requested from international partners. It will indeed be a challenge for Vice President al-Hadi and Prime Minister BaSundwa, but this should not obstruct the flow of financial assistance required to stabilize the entire country. The Cabinet, the organized opposition and civil society must exert collaborative efforts to ensure guarantees for aid and transparency in properly appropriating funds where they are needed as priorities demand.
Collaboration can not be ensured without a guarantee from all actors to engage a new dialogue process. There has been tremendous pressure from the opposition to re-engage the political dialogue in order to solve the multiple crises faced by Yemenis today. These efforts are partly seen by independents and the General People’s Congress (GPC) as maneuvers to allow the opposition an environment in which to re-position itself within the regime. The initial idea of engaging in dialogue does not precisely provide a comprehensive agenda as to what the principle goal may be or who should actually participate and what their legitimate capacity may be. The latter concerns the apprehensive Houthi group and the highly divided Southern Movement.
There is no doubt a dialogue process must begin soon. After the failure of the 2009 National Dialogue process it is also obvious there must be a new entity to act as an independent, nonpartisan broker whole leads the dialogue. Its composition is also a vital priority, for the new process should not directly involve thousands of participants who each represent particular agendas. The stakeholders within such a dialogue must not only work toward alleviating people’s burdens but also engage a process of national reconciliation within the scope of equality, non-hegemonical hierarchies and above all, unifying national interests.
This process cannot succeed at its minimum without including the fundamental issue of a devastating economy. as previously mentioned in other writings without a parallel dialogue on the economy, first among private sector economic actors and then between the private sector and the government, Yemen will continue to suffer economically and stability will not be easy to achieve. The economy was a primary issue driving youth protests, and it was equally a priority for southerners in 2007. with an underdeveloped economy highly dependent on rents, the government will be unable to absorb the growing youth bulge in 2012, nor will it be able to allow the private sector to return to pre-February 2011 levels, never mind any degree of growth.
Yemen’s economy must be a parallel priority, not second or third. Twelve months of protests did not merely intend to force a transition of political power, it also aimed at engaging a new reform regime that would tackle corruption at its root, not just among the elite. Above all, youth protesters became their advocates within the economic sphere, demanding diversification of the economy and increased access to resources providing an opportunity for educated youth to contribute to economic growth and expand employment through their own business ventures. Many of the youth protesting since February 2011, and driving a social awakening in Yemen, represent a large portion of the population that lives outside patronage networks. They are educated, self driven and ambitious. They don’t want a job at a friend’s company or with a shaykh. Educated youth have their ideas for contributing to Yemen’s economic development.
It would be a shame if this government fails to seize the opportunity before them. One way surely to lead to failure and prolonged instability will be if comprehensive institutional reform falls of the agenda. The ‘parallel revolution’ that begun last month within government civilian and military institutions do not themselves take on the roots of corruption. As we have often seen elsewhere, cutting off the head of the snake is not the only answer. Employees across the government sector suffer from unjust low wages, often driving the honest to driving a taxi or other side jobs, and the not so honest are driven to maintaining more than one government job. Lack of transparency is also a huge obstacle, more so at this time when people want to start a new business of join civil society organizations. The new Cabinet could push for an eGovernment project and a full review of government institutions to begin work on changing the institutional culture.
Multi-tasking is not natural to governments, and for this reason the interim government must accept the role of the private sector in creating comprehensive solutions to the crises. The people deserve a more efficient government that acts immediately rather then waiting for future milestones to pass.