Yemen, a third-world country is hardly at rest with unemployment, corruption and severe water shortage bombarding from every front with viciousness. Present circumstances can be described as the convergence of national ills with a glimmering hope to abate them. The brew of these problems has largely been seen as recurrent with a political reinforcement in a regime that disrespects it citizenry.
Yemeni corruption wraps around the country in almost every sphere of administration and service provision and transcends to the individual level. Transparency International ranks the republic of Yemen almost to the bottom of its scaling, with a rating of 2.4 and 2.7 within the years of 2004 and 2007 respectively. Furthermore, what makes corruption such an adversity in Yemen is a hard fact of 23% of the national budget allocation subliming unaccountably due to subtle and consistent corruption coupled with foggy government transparency. Yemen thus is heavily underdeveloped and misappropriation of funds majorly by individuals including the police force, hampers laid down developmental procedures and poses a stumbling block to effected policies and reforms to resuscitate the ailing economy.
The severity of corruption has taken a sore twist that will require daring steps and mechanisms and a robust system of assessment and accountability to avert its current benign state. A survey done by Transparency international in 2013 indicates that 56% of Yemenis confidently affirm that corruption had gone on the rise compared to previous years which seemed much better. GALLUP international as well in a survey spanning 2007 to 2011 reveals a decreasing trend in individuals denying government corruption from 19% to 11%. An average of 74% of those surveyed with a projection to the whole population were fully persuaded during the four year survey period that the government was indeed corrupt in dispensing its functions and handling of public funds and demonstrated incompetency, lack of tact and up-to-date systems of managing national resources as is seconded by Boucek who gives an account of 30% of government revenue failing to be receipted in national coffers with no direct accountability and fading follow-ups that never bring results to light.
The genesis and further escalation of corruption is largely pinned on the corrupt non-ubiquitous regime with the government wielding its judicial and economic authority corruptly with minimal national accord and cloudy fiscal transparency. National accountability has been on an all-time low and state institutions have been weakly run. Government officials abused oath of office in different capacities, taking bribes to activate services and engaging in shoddy non-state procured deals for instance officially tolerated smuggling and black-marketing in petrochemicals.
National laws and regulations drafted into the Yemeni constitution last amended in 2001 provide crystal clear legal framework and policing towards combating nationwide corruption but most of these laws are plagued by custom laws viciously backed by sheikhs who have a propensity of overriding formal national law; this is a weakness and obstruction of full effect of policing. Moreover, the establishment of the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption is a positive agenda towards beheading corruption but the disadvantageous factor is limited enforcement capabilities provided under its mandate and the favoritism applied in exemption of public servants from the anti-corruption net.
Water scarcity and depletion
Yemen is generally a dry country that has been dependent on water from underground aquifers to bolster its water need. However the condition is growing worrisome by the day with extraction rates overwhelming replenishment rates with reduced monsoon rains. Fifty years ago, 1100m3 was Yemen's water supply per head which is near WHO's 1000m3 water poverty line. Water availability dropped to 460m3 in the 90s and is now thought to be 120m3 per head which is an appalling state.
A 3.5% general population growth rate per annum and a 7% growth rate in the capital Sana'a are major factors that spiral the situation to sore conditions and paints a picture of being almost insurmountable. High population frustrates the situation with high depletion rates considered almost four times the replenishment rate which is utterly irreversible and the only likely change could be alternative water sources consideration at the moment. On the other hand, with scarce inconsistent rainfall meant to replenish underground water, irrigated agriculture is a major factor in driving the water scarcity to worse grounds. Surprisingly, water drilled from underground sources primarily meant for domestic consumption, has been redirected 70% towards water-intensive qat cultivation; a semi-narcotic drug that is chewed by 80% of Yemenis, old and young alike. Qat covers about 15% of arable land but with its dominance in the society's culture, its general priority for social and economic reasons is ironically higher than food cultivation. Between 1970 and 2000 USAID estimates a 13-fold escalation in qat growing while only 2-fold increase in grape growing, which pushes to the limit water depletion. Fuelling the problem of water scarcity to a higher degree was the onset of subsidies on diesel. With low prices associated with diesel, able individuals in different parts of the country, mostly in administratively deficient regions within the rural muhafazat have acquired pumps for their domestic and agricultural use and have dealt a big blow to depleting underground water, with a 6.6 feet annual drop estimate of the water table.
There are 800 estimated private drill rigs in Yemen involved in underground water acquisition. The sheer number depicts an unmonitored situation where self will and self wish takes the center stage and the administration takes the back seat. Government regulation in all fronts of importation of private equipment and licensing of these equipment and drill sites was wanting and individuals took the systems into their own hands. Making the matter worse, until a few years ago, the Water and Environment Ministry was unheard of.
Unregulation and an unmonitored situation mingled with weak government authority has been the driving force fuelling water scarcity. With this the Yemeni government has sought to adopt decentralization of services and governance to the muhafazat governorates to give more mandate and legal framework to counter water needs.
The establishment of the Water and Environment Ministry in 2004 is a leap forward in formalizing and accounting for water and sanitation related services. The ministry which was non-existent before its inception takes oversight and assesses prospective measures in equal distribution and potential extra-underground water sources.
An exclusive report by World Bank puts the unemployment levels of young Yemenis at 60% (2012) while the general unemployment lies at 35% which gives an estimation of 7 million labor force in a 24 million population (anonymous). If remembered, the 2011 uprising that flashed international media and drew global attention in the Arab revolution was majorly economic in Yemen with masses in hundreds of thousands protesting against economic disparities and rife unemployment. Boucek notes that 25,000 fresh people enter the labor markets per year and this number is increasing coupled with the 3.5%+ growth rate which worsens the current state. Women and young adults face the rough side of unemployment and are often marginalized when seeking absorption into the labor force apparently because older men occupy most positions that would otherwise be given to the young and the vibrant.
On the downside, Yemeni officials have made it clear that the interim administration and existing economic capacity, is rendered unable to offer employment in government institutions and the private sector which was much hoped for as well is unable to fill the deficit neither stem the problem.
With the current growth rate, the Yemeni population is projected to double by 2030 and this increasing population with a recorded high of 7% in the capital Sana'a is a major cause of the unemployment levels within the country added to the shrinking Yemeni economy hit hard by global forces beyond local control.
It has been observed that the rise of insurgency due to government weakness in controlling most of rural Yemen, has contributed to instability and consequently unemployment. Young Yemenis have constantly fallen prey to the guile of recruitment into extremist factions for instance al-Qaeda and Houthi rebel activities in the north leading many into mercantile ambitions rather than economic development.
The Yemeni government initiated a developmental plan in 2011 for the Ministry of Planning and International Co-operation, mandated by the House of Representatives, as a comprehensive plan to fuel job growth majorly among the youth, women and graduates. In this ambition, it has been laid down by the government to increase support and provide incentives to businesses and none-oil industries of the likes of fishing, quarrying, tourism and mineral manufacturing, which in turn will increase their capability of opening employment opportunities to qualified Yemenis. However, unemployment rates have been defined in the recent past to be but the same and no positive changes have been recognized.
Government program to foster employment and ease the horrible figures was prospective and postulated a fair amount of new job in case the program came into full running. All the same, funding for this mega project has been a hurdle bearing in mind the record of Yemen in incompetence governance and corruption. A proposal to obtain foreign aid was more pressed upon but some speculated on domestic funding to bolster the project. But that is yet to be effected.
The preconditions for using custom law should be clearly defined if not utterly done away with. Matters of national concern such as corruption which lag development, should be given precedence by unified national law at all times and intervention of any sort should be done under legal judicial procedures and not hinged on local and tribal sheikhs and unqualified advocates. This is highly recommended to prevent corrupt officials and persons from passing through the sieve of the law under the guise of local accord and conciliation.
The pioneering Water and Environment ministry, ought to exert full authority by documenting water sources and their conditions and prevent further unwarranted sinking of wells by private individuals to control unfairness with the scarce natural resource and decentralize its functionalities to reach every governorate and village. This comes in as a robust recommendation to curb illicit tapping of an all-citizen-deserving resource that is basic, dwindling and sluggishly replenishing.
In the wake of a promising government motive to secure the future in employment, local funding is highly recommended and the option of subsidies, which cost 3.5 billion dollars, should be restructured and such funds to be redirected towards curbing unemployment. Local funding will minimize the likelihood of submerging further into international debt in case of foreign funding which may negatively impact economic development.
Yemen is mired with unemployment, corruption and water scarcity wounds that have inflicted the nation and heavily impacted in its global ranking and socio-economic status. With a high population growth rate and inadequate governance, Yemenis continue to survive in soaring circumstances that need urgent and stringent measures to ease tension and boost economic growth. Non-ubiquitous national governance and the concentration of government influence around Sana'a is proving to be inappropriate and has marginalized the muhafazat. A lot is yet to be done socio-economically and politically to set Yemen and Yemenis in a cup of contentment.