By Fakhri al-Arashi-NY
The Arab Spring has affected Yemen in a way not similar to other Arab countries, says Christopher Boucek, an associate at the Carnegie Middle East Program.
Speaking at a presentation organized by the cultural attaché of the American Embassy and the Yemen American Lanaguage Institute in Sana’a last week, Mr. Boucek said that the international community has its focus in the wrong place.
“Yemen has been a special case throughout the Arab Spring as tension has risen throughout the country in the past nine months,” said Boucek. Accordingly, the international community has stepped up its involvement in Yemen as it does not want Yemen to become a failed state and see it as their role to prevent that from happening. Politicians around the world are trying to understand what the challenges are facing the new Yemen and how they can avoid problems that may cause devastating results.
Many currently feel that Yemen is not getting the resources that it should from the American government and the international community. Even though policymakers state that Yemen is the number two priority behind the Af/Pak region, Yemen receives only a fraction of the aid of Af/Pak. Currently, Afghanistan and Pakistan net billions of dollars every year and Yemen has only received about three hundred million dollars which is tied up into security assistance.
This represents a distorted appropriation of funds and is large problem for Yemen. As Boucek argued, “The problem of Yemen it’s not al-Qeada , neither is it terrorism. It’s the economy and corruption that should be the focus.”
Bouck argued that once one looks at what is going on there now, they will surely notice multiple economic crises. Yet the focus remains squarely on the terrorism and could result in a future crisis that looms heavy over the country.
“Once you visit Yemen and as soon as you leave the airport you feel its not terrorism, not al-Qeada , security , its economy and corruption,” said Boucek.
Despite appeals to U.S. Congress about the state of Yemen’s economy, Boucek contends that the international community is still not talking about the economy.
“I am talking about over and over again to the U.S. congress, speaking about the economy,” Boucek said. Yet policymakers keep talking about terrorism when Yemen faces multiple crises of health, food, water and diesel, all of which are being overlooked.
Boucek argued in his presentation that the big challenge is food security. Many Yemenis live off of two dollars a day making them vulnerable to food shocks. This problem, he says, is inter-connected to all other sectors of Yemen’s economy creating a looming crisis with the potential to wreak havoc throughout Yemen.
If policy makers don’t widen their perspective outside of terrorism, larger problems await.