x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The way ahead for Yemen

The future for Yemen does not have to be bleak, an Arabic newspaper columnist says. Other topics: Lebanon in danger and Egypt's election.

Aid from donors means new hope for Yemen - but there will have to be internal cooperation

Yemen's exports do not amount to much, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed noted in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The country exports 200,000 barrels of oil per day, some natural gas, a little coffee, some beans, some fish.

The country's whole annual budget, the writer went on, amounts to less than $6 billion (Dh22 billion) for a population of 24 million. And 45 per cent of Yemenis live in poverty.

The columnist also noted that "Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ejected president, retired in riches, leaving behind a country even more impoverished than it was when he took over more than three decades ago."

In any case, he went on, there is no wisdom in dwelling in the past. The people of Yemen have a precious chance to rebuild their present and their future now that they have succeeded in achieving a pivotal change with the least possible damage. Not long ago no one could have believed that Mr Saleh would in fact forsake power without a civil war.

At their meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday, the "Friends of Yemen" countries agreed to extend to the underprivileged country $4 billion in aid, most of it coming from Saudi Arabia.

And in two months, another such conference of donor countries will be held.

Everyone agrees that this aid comes at the last possible moment to prevent the social disaster of which economists have been warning for some time. Yemen teeters on the brink of a horrible famine and its surface water is about to dry up.

"Despite the immensity of the ruins, the future doesn't have to be bleak," the writer said, "provided the new Yemeni state is able to rebuild its structures and if internal power blocks are prepared to cooperate to overcome the crisis.

In that case, even the threat of terrorism from Al Qaeda that has spread like a cancer in Yemen won't stand a chance in a tribally coherent and religiously moderate country."

The columnist went on to suggest that the new regime, as well as the Friends of Yemen would be well advised to entrust the economic salvation of Yemen to international players capable of advising about the best ways to save the country.

Back in the 1990s, Yemen produced about half a million barrels of oil per day compared to much less now.

With the discovery of natural gas and with its human power, Yemen stands to forge itself a strong economy. It could easily be transformed into an industrial hub that exports to Gulf markets that rely on imported manpower.

If there is some genuine cooperation, then Yemen is capable of a lot, far more than was possible under Mr Saleh, who was notorious for his absurd politics and for his blatant neglect of development opportunities for his country.

Whole Arab world follows Egypt's vote

Nothing indicates how organically Egypt is connected to its fellow Arabs better than this presidential election, Osama Al Ghazali wrote in the UAE-based newspaper Al Watan.

In a 48-hour business trip to Saudi Arabia, he wrote, "it felt like I had not left Cairo, and I kept track of the Egyptian presidential campaign as perfectly as if I had been back home.

"Visiting a few Saudi friends, I found they were glued to the television to keep abreast of the latest about the Egyptian presidential campaign.

"Each of my friends backed one or another of the candidates and stood by their opinions in favour of their favourite contenders, exactly like Egyptian political buffs do.

"On the streets, I frequently came across many Arab nationals and Egyptians, who all wanted to know for whom I would cast my ballot, or who commented on a TV programme on which I had appeared.

"At a shop, I came upon a bearded youngster. He criticised my stance on Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail, to which I replied I have nothing against the Sheikh except that he did not tell the truth about his mother's nationality."

Against this backdrop, the writer said, he recognised how much satellite television and social networks have affected life and "moulded new patterns of pan-Arabism and Arab unity, as if the would-be president is for all Arabs, not just Egyptians".

Lebanon teeters on the edge of civil war

Since their independence in 1943, the Lebanese have never enjoyed long-term stability, the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday.

Infighting, foreign intervention and worst of all, Israeli aggression have caused trouble, and still show no sign of abating.

"Lebanon once again teeters on the edge of abyss as the factions remain at loggerheads," the editorial noted. "This is indicative of their failure to learn from the tragic atrocities of past decades."

As compromise and dialogue fail, weapons have found their way onto the street. Chaos and civil war loom.

Lebanon should be marking the anniversary of liberation from Israeli occupation, unified and strong. But instead escalation, selfishness and machinations are spreading like wildfire.

"Warnings of the danger hanging over Lebanon are coming from far and wide, but fall on deaf ears. The factions are guided by instinct and bent on settling old scores, no matter what the cost Lebanon must pay."

Each party has been pursuing its own narrow interests. However, they should all rethink or else they will all be held accountable for the repercussions.

Failure to protect national security of Lebanon puts the country's present and future on the line.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk