OP-ED

Good, But For Whom?

By Fakhri al-Arashi

A country develops through the decisions and decrees of its government. Likewise, the government of Yemen takes on dozens of decisions on a daily basis, but lately they have made certain troubling and contradictory decisions.

These decisions please many in the beginning, but bring only sadness to others later on.  As an example, take the government’s recent decree to freeze government hiring for the next five years.  This decree, issued nine months ago, brought disappointment to many young, talented, Yemeni people who were expecting the consensus government to bring them more and better opportunities than those available under the old government.

This same shortsightedness has taken place with the new government edict on used cars, in which the council of ministers decided to ban the import of all American used cars to Yemen.  This decree was made after several campaigns by Yemen’s new foreign brand automobile agencies, who have been steadily pushing the government to take action against the used car traders who create competition for the new agencies.  In some ways, we agree that Yemen does not need more used cars. Ending the import of foreign, used vehicles would be a positive step for the country, presuming that the government had already established a strong, capable economy and the common Yemeni has the capacity to buy and enjoy a new-brand car.

I recall seeing recently  an ad that boasted “buy your new car immediately without interest!”  The fine print showed that while there were no interest payments, vendors had to make a deposit at the bank worth 110% of the car’s cost. Deposits could be made in gold or other forms of personal property.  But if any consumer already had 110% of the car’s cost lying around in gold, what is the advantage of making the deposit in the first place?  This is an ad that speaks only to the wealthy, and Yemen does not need a system like that within its borders

 We support the new-brand cars dealers and their ambitious ideas for the new Yemen business climate, and we recognize that the used cars industry may harm their competitiveness.  But this does not answer the question of how these businesses should expand, or how they should treat citizens or the business community.  We agree that many used cars enter Yemen in bad condition, and this has caused accidents and injuries.  But we dispute the claim that accidents stem only, or even primarily, from used cars.  Accidents come from roads, routes, driver capacity and other elements.

Somehow, the bad economy may lead to many excuses as court cases go on between used cars salesmen and the government  on the side of the new car dealers.  It is left to the government to mediate this issue. The people of Yemen would accept equal opportunities for all.  In Ethiopia, taxi drivers travel the in cars whose models from the 1970’s, but the cars remain in good condition. Old, used cars have a place in a developing economy, but here in Yemen, the expensive-brand cars go to the rich, while the poor remain the same.  For whom is the government’s new decree?  We can see the good in it, but whom is it for?

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