The Problem of Poverty in Yemen and Regeneration
National Yemen, May 11th 2014
States need great financial power in order to meet all their social needs, from health to education and from the fight against terror to public transportation. Yemen is also experiencing similar troubles at this time when all countries, from the richest to the poorest, have been affected by the global financial crisis and when unemployment has risen.
One of the biggest economic problems in Yemen is high rate of increase in prices. The increase in prices of various basic consumer products, not considering seasonal factors – known as core inflation – is as high as 166% this year. However, the fact that price increases standing at 25% in October 2011 have now come down to about 12% is a positive sign. Unfortunately, the fact that Yemeni incomes are not rising as fast as prices is leading to increasing poverty in the country. The monthly incomes of impoverished Yemenis are not enough to meet their needs, and there is also a major problem of unemployment across the country.
Research shows that unemployment in Yemen reached 30% in 2012: This figure increases even more when one considers the families, which these people are responsible for. It is impossible to speak of manufacturing or productivity in a country with such high unemployment levels.
Imbalances between income and expenditure are not only a problem at the individual level, but also at the national level. Yemen's exports stand at $850 million, but imports at $1.5 billion; that naturally has an adverse effect on the country's balance of payments.
In order to close this gap and get back to a normal flow of life, the Yemeni government has also started looking for foreign assistance. Yet even if foreign assistance were to be found, it is inadequate, because the interest repayments give rise to even greater problems such as increases in prices and taxes.
The assistance given to countries today, and particularly to those under difficult economic conditions such as Yemen, is built upon interest. The high-interest loans granted by the IMF, World Bank or other international organizations all too often have seriously adverse effects on national economies.
Such assistance is generally used in providing finance for essential imports, paying public sector salaries and closing the budget deficit. These are all short-term measures and cause the country to fall into an even greater spiral of debt. No country has ever closed its budget deficit with high-interest foreign loans.
Various technical matters that need to be borne in mind if Yemen is to develop and overcome the poverty that has become a feature of its national life are as follows:
◉ Immediate legal amendments strengthening freedoms to meet Yemenis' material and non-material needs;
◉ Investments and support directed toward regeneration being spread across Yemen rather than restricted to a narrow region;
◉ Measures to ensure Yemenis being able to provide for themselves instead of expecting material support from wealthy nations or international organizations;
◉ Financing from overseas being used in revenue-generating development programs, and the prevention of their being used by individual institutions and of abuse;
◉ All cultural or sectarian groups in Yemen, and especially women, being given respect and equality of opportunity;
◉ Prevention of damage to natural resources such as water, air and soil.
Putting these arrangements into practice at once will provide a ray of hope for Yemen. Otherwise, an economy in which there is high inflation and interest rates, where investment is next to zero and where money is stuffed in safes or under mattresses will almost inevitably bring with it such problems as a high cost of living and inflation.
If there is production, however, there will be a general improvement in the national economy; the markets will come to life and that will be to the benefit of all. The hoarding of goods and money is a kind of behavior that God dislikes: In the Qur'an, it is commanded that people use their money for good causes. It is revealed in verse 34 of Surat at-Tawba that people who do not use their possessions for auspicious deeds but hoard their wealth will come to a painful end.
In a climate where people live by Islamic moral values, living conditions are arranged for the benefit of people. That is why interest is forbidden, and verse 275 of Surat al-Baqara makes it unlawful for people to be crushed under a heavy burden of debt. God reveals that interest will not cause anyone to prosper in another verse:
God obliterates interest but makes charity grow in value! God does not love any persistently ungrateful wrongdoer. (Surat al-Baqara, 276)
It is very important to have order and stability in the country if living conditions are to be improved and that stability must be in all spheres of life, from economy to social life. All Muslims have great responsibilities in that regard; nobody should simply sit around waiting for someone else to come up with a solution. We must all do what we can, because God imposes this responsibility on all believers. This can be fulfilled by preaching religion and showing people the delights religion offers in their lives.
For example, a society that believes that it is auspicious for wealth to be spent on good deeds and on God's path will use its excess wealth for such purposes: Clearly, under such a system the whole country will attain well-being. The only way to ensure that people do not regard such a conception as far-fetched and inaccessible is to teach them the moral values of the Qur'an.
It also needs to be made clear that in a life guided by the moral values of the Qur'an, since people act out of reverence of God they will work for the comfort and interests of all, not just their own. That is because unity, solidarity and mutual aid are highly important in the moral values of Islam.
In such a society, violation of others' rights would not be possible as it would be known that it is an act strictly prohibited by God. Nobody will cast their eyes on anyone else's share in a covetous manner and there will be no injustice in distribution. There will be no unjust system based on self-interest, in which the weak are crushed underfoot, and in which people seek to add other people's shares to their own, of the kind we so often see in irreligious societies that are distant from moral values and religion.
If people live by Qur'anic moral values there will be no waste in Yemen, and no wasteful consumption. People's economic levels will rise due to mutual solidarity and justice and the result will be a prosperous society. The Age of Felicity in which people lived by the moral values of the Qur'an and in which social peace and social justice was perfectly secured is one clear proof of this.