Dr. Mohammed Jubran, financial expert and Professor of Accounting at Sana’a University has been advocating for fighting corruption and for a better use of the country’s resources. Jubran talks to La Voix du Yémen about the performance of the interim government, discussing whether there has been any positive change in the economy or if the previous challenges exist.
La Voix du Yémen (LVDY): It is clear that Yemen’s economy is failing. Could you explain some of the reasons and remedies of this situation?
Dr. Mohammed Jubran: The Yemeni economy experiences chronic imbalance between production and consumption, resources and expenditures, exports and imports. This is a result of the fall down that Yemen has been experiencing since the early 1990s.
After the unity, the two ruling parties came to power and they both used State financial resources to mobilize their own popular organizations, militias and troops, leading to a two-fold overspending of the budget in 1992, which consequently devalued the currency. Then the economic crunch continued from time to time and exacerbated more when former president Ali Abdullah Saleh planned for his son to inherit power.
Since then, public money was being used in accordance with the inner circle that supports the rule for Saleh’s son. Everyone in this circle stole whatever they could, businessmen obtained tax exemptions in billions, and tribesmen also looted what they were able to get.
LVDY: How do you assess the performance of the new government?
Dr. Jubran: When the national reconciliation government inherited this situation, it never did what it should have done. It was supposed to focus on the inside and not the outside. We have certain resources and there are corrupt men taking it. We need few actions that control over-spending, which I consider part of corruption, and if we just tackled that, the situation would be different.
Neither the government nor its ministries have a program. Ministers also have no plans, no aims nor ambitions and the posts were given to them as gifts only because of friendships. So recession continued as it is now. Some people say the unity-government principle might be the reason, but I do not say this because even revolutionary ministers have no clear program.
LVDY: Former President Saleh is saying that the National Unity Government has failed. Does the economy support that claim?
Dr. Jubran: Frankly speaking, the economic reality during Saleh’s reign is the same as today, and there is no difference between them. But we blame the National Unity Government because they were supposed to, at the very least, save the money that used to be spent illegally by Saleh.
I told the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance that they could save YR 100 billion (around 460 million dollars) per year that was spent illegally by Saleh through the Republican Guard. Instead, troops should receive their salaries through bank transfers, the army size must not exceed 250,000 troops and the salary of the solider must be sufficient with health insurance, and ability to provide their kids with good education.
However, the entire government, including the President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is still following the same mechanism that Saleh used to do. No one has plans to prevent corruption in their offices. So how will corruption be controlled?
LVDY: In your opinion, can you give us an example of an economic mistake by the government or Minister of Finance?
Dr. Jubran: I do not hold the Minister of Finance accountable alone but everyone in office, starting with the Prime Minister to officials in the economic ministries. However, the minister of finance can be accountable for the following: first, he did not collect taxes. For example, one merchant was charged with YR 38 billion (around 175 million dollars) of taxes but did not pay. The ministry could generate one trillion Yemeni Riyal (around five billion dollars) per year from taxes alone, as well as more than one billion dollar annually from customs fees.
The minister has also been relying on external fund and every time he goes to the World Bank or the IMF asking for money, he forgets about the country’s resources.
Finally, he took no action towards the oil companies that cause the rise of the oil cost, which deprive the Yemeni budget of one billion dollars every year. This problem only requires a decree banning the private sector from providing services to oil companies.
There has also been no progress on the cancelation of the gas contract in which the Yemeni liquid gas was sold for a very low price. This contract was supposed to be referred to the court and anyone proved guilty for receiving commission in this deal would have been jailed, whether it would have been Saleh or anyone else.
LVDY: The transitional period is about to end. How do you foresee the future of Yemen’s economy?
Dr. Jubran: I say it frankly, if the government continues with the same approach, there will be no economy, but more deterioration. The local debt has increased since January 2011 to reach two trillion Yemeni Riyal (around ten billion dollars) and Yemen pays 400 billion Yemeni Riyals (almost two billion dollars) of interests per year, which is half the amount for government’s employees’ salaries.
Interview conducted by Ali SaeedFrançais
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