By Asma Al-Mohattwari
Security forces captured two al-Qaeda members who planned to commit a suicide attack in retaliation of the new government decision regarding the Yemeni working wee
The Ministry of Civil Service and Insurance recently approved the conversion of Yemen’s workweek from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday, after postponing the implementation of this decision for almost a year.
The change was intended to keep Yemen apace with movements in the global market and business sector, said a statement published by the Ministry. The change was discussed as early as four years ago, but attempts to pursue the policy by the previous government were met with strong resistance from Islamic groups.
Official sources have said that the government aims with the changed workweek to help public and private sectors meet economic and investment requirements, as well as to facilitate cooperation with embassy offices and international missions operating in Yemen. Shifting the holiday from Thursday to Saturday is also intended to increase benefits and reduce losses.
Previously, the Ministry of Legal Affairs found that financial and diplomatic international transactions are work-related on a daily basis excepting Saturday and Sunday, when the majority of the world’s nations take their weekend. Because of its Thursday-Friday weekend, Yemen’s business community was cut off from the world for four days of each week—Thursday through Sunday—and both business and government sectors were incurring financial and productivity losses due to this misalignment.
The Ministry of Legal Affairs believes that the new weekend will have a positive impact on economic activity and international communication.
August 15th was the first Thursday after the decision’s implementation that most of Yemen’s ministries, companies and organization treated as a workday; the following Saturday was a holiday.
On Friday, August 16, one day after the implementation, security forces discovered the suicide attempt in Sana’a’ al-Tahrir district. Police interrogated two suspects, who admitted that the bombing was intended to protest the new weekend holiday, which they perceived as characteristic of the Jewish calendar.
The decision of the Yemeni government to convert the weekly rest day from Thursday to Saturday has caused a wave of critical responses both for and against the move. Some agree with the new policy consider it a good step for the government, while others criticize it and view it as a sign of dependency on Jews and Christians.
On his Facebook page, Mohamed Abdelmajid al-Zindani, the Salafi religious figure, accused the government of subservience to Jews and the Christians, considering that Saturday-Sunday is the weekend observed by the Jewish and Christian religions.
On the other hand, Mansour al-Samadi, political activist and chairman of the Preparatory Committee of the Yemeni Liberal Party, said that the decision is totally right and implementation has become a necessity due to its many economic and social benefits to the country.
Al-Samadi said that the decision achieves compatibility between Arab and international economic institutions and ensures the synergy of Yemen’s economic, trade and investment interests with the rest of the world, especially given that most of Arab, and other, countries have become unified in official working hours and days.
“[The change] also benefits Yemeni citizens abroad, and there are many economic benefits to Yemeni citizens that they are unaware of. Therefore I consider this decision as a good step and a great benefit to the country” he added.
Yemen’s implementation of the new weekend came after an identical adjustment by Saudi Arabia. On that point, Yahiya Al-Matari says that it is not the first time for the Yemen to show dependence on Saudi Arabia, and that the Republic of Yemen has shown similar dependence in a number of issues.
“I think that Yemen in particular will not benefit from Saturday holiday, as we are disrupting a day of activity by state institutions. No one would dare to be absent on Saturday, and employees made strenuous efforts on this day because it was the first day of the week,” he said.
According to al-Matari, Yemeni people will not take advantage of this holiday for several reasons. First, Yemeni customs and traditions will not fit with taking Saturdays of and working on Thursday; Yemenis will simply treat Thursday as a third day off.
Furthermore, al-Matari believes that there is no significant banking activity in Yemen that requires keeping pace with the world, and that evidence suggests that private banks deal with the lion’s share of government services, features, and Arab and international awards. Finally, al-Matari says that the number of foreign companies operating in Yemen, which play a key role in governmental affairs, are not so important as to require making Saturday an official holiday.
“I wish the government had made a feasibility study before making any decision and freed us from subordination to the unjust family of al-Saud, whose only interest is to satisfy the U.S. administration,” he added.
Mohammed Kasem, a worker in a bank, said that the positive impact will fall on bankers and securities traders more than others because of the fact that this change will add a work day compatible with official workdays of the banking and global capital sectors. These companies will also reduce time wastage between Yemenis and global markets.
He explained that huge sums would return to banks coffers as a result of this amendment, which will restore balance lost to the scheduling gap between Yemen and the countries of the western world. Three days off instead of four will reflect positively on the movement of financial transfers to and from banks.
“The significant change is Thursday, not Friday so I find no difference between Saturdays and Thursdays because they are not religious holidays, and I wish that the Yemeni people could understand the benefits from this change and focus on the interests of Yemen first,” he said.
Most of Yemen’s ministries, companies and organizations’ workers worked on Thursday August 15, and approved of this workday.