Published on Arab Voices

More say in public spending would help Yemenis when the war ends

Al Hudaydah's main market, Yemen - Claudiovidri l Shutterstock.comWhile waiting for peace negotiations in Kuwait to help end the year of conflict in Yemen after claiming thousands of mainly civilian lives, Yemenis are striving for security to be restored to get back to their normal lives . For a whole year of war—until now—and for four years of political unrest prior to it, people have been worn out by deteriorating living standards and the lack of basic services: food, medicine, fuel, and, above all, security.

Yemenis feel an urgent need for basic public services , despite showing an exceptional degree of resilience and adaptation to difficulties, their distinctive trait throughout history.
Looking forward to a political settlement, the next step for political factions must be directed toward gaining public trust and confidence, initially through the delivery of public services. Yemenis have always held out hope for a better quality of life, with less suffering and more economic inclusion, even although development plans have failed repeatedly since the mid-1990’s.

Reviving the economy in Yemen will only start once political consensus is reached . Government civil servants have tried to stop the economy failing. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and think tanks now have the chance to lead public awareness campaigns and hold public discussions on economic impacting issues to help shape a short- to medium-term recovery strategy. This will push forward people’s demands and provide government officials with a clear sense of what programs must be prioritized.   

The involvement of CSOs helps keep citizen engagement open, promoting the full inclusion of all social groups, encouraging equality-led practices, inviting public scrutiny, and emphasizing the importance of strengthening accountability and transparency.  

Issues that CSOs and think tanks could put on the table in post-conflict periods include: i) re-shaping the structure and implementation of government; ii) updating the legal framework; iii) empowering public servants; iv) and, most importantly, (re)building institutions that could strengthen mechanisms for accountability and control.

Some non-governmental organizations have already called for—and are attempting to support— technocrats in helping keep politics out of the economy, before it collapses. Still, most of these local organizations lack resources and capacity, giving international development agencies an opportunity to support them.  

Another important aspect of the Yemeni economy that should be addressed directly after the end of the war is participation in the preparation of public finance budgets and, later, the disclosure of actual national revenues and expenditures. Basically, this one of the rights of citizen tax payers, and a major concern for them.

Nationwide debates on improving public finances and initiatives in line with international good practices should aid national institutions. This could also entail outlining fiscal and monetary policies to stabilize the economy, and protect revenue from Yemen’s natural resources.

Yemenis have to start a new chapter that shows they have learned from catastrophic mistakes  and bridges the gap between the people and people in power. They need a new “social contract” with their government. The journey to development will be a long one, but without public determination, Yemen won’t go anywhere different from it stands today.


Walid Al-Najar

Public Financial Management professional

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