Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Oil victims of Yemen | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Yemeni President sought to explain the recent problem concerning oil prices to the tribal leaders of the regions in which there has recently been unrest. They met in the official residence of the presidency where the president explained that theirs is a global issue. He even suggested that he would equalize the price of oil and diesel of Yemen to that of Saudi Arabia, but the tribal leaders refused. At this point, the president could not accept their stance and said, &#34For 43 years now you have defended all what Saudi Arabia calls for, and now you refuse to be equal to them?&#34

The Yemeni government fears that it will not be able to handle the internationally rising prices of oil. In addition, its citizens are unable to pay 1300 Riyals ($7US) for 20 liters of oil, mainly because salaries of almost half of the citizens do not exceed $2US per day. Furthermore, they cannot give up driving their cars, as this is their main form of transportation.

More than 22 people have been killed as a result of the government”s rise in oil prices from $4US to $7US per gallon. The situation will deteriorate in all Arab petroleum exporting countries such as Jordan, Morocco and Lebanon. So what is the solution?

We find ourselves in quite a dilemma. The price of diesel and oil is extremely low in Yemen in comparison to oil prices internationally. This is because the government pays a huge bill to help sustain the prices of both products, yet it will never be able to continue in doing so or else it will be financially wrecked. Even if it attempts to shift part of this burden upon the Yemeni citizen, he will not be able to handle such a financial strain.

Why has this stern attitude emerged? The reason is that Arab governments only seek to solve problems when they escalate and can no longer be ignored. The price of oil has been soaring for four years now, and could further rise in the coming years. How then will any poor government deal with such a problem? Will it allocate troops to the streets or will it further increase its debt? Or rather, will it pray for the discovery of new oil wells on their lands?

Most countries of the world are not oil producing, yet they are successful and have coped well with their circumstances. They adopted long-term strategies that began with strengthening their efficiency, developing the competence of its citizen through education and training and following a serious plan for development. Finland was one of the poorest countries within Europe, yet it has become one of the richest countries. Also, Singapore which only manages to catch a glimpse of the Indonesian oil and pays the full price for it, has become richer than Indonesia itself.

The Yemeni government, just like its counterparts of the Moroccan and Jordanian government has found itself in serious trouble, which seems to be escalating with time, and there seems to be no alternative but to pay for all the oil expenses. To create a more positive future, the governments must rule out the idea of more loans. They should begin to establish strong developmental policies starting with developing the potential of the nation”s people. If this does not take place, the countries will never be able to handle such an increase in oil prices, which could potentially reach $100US per barrel. Even at $50US per barrel, the country would face difficulties especially considering the increase in population and international increases in prices of primary resources and manufactured goods.