03 April, 2009

The Menu

Has the G20 achieved much after their meeting in Britain? Considering that over 50% of the world's population live on less than a Euro a day,World leaders attending the meeting, had an excellent meal which featured the best of seasonal produce from around the UK. But the main and 'real menu', was how they would try to come up with real, responsible and bold ideas which would fix, mostly their own but also the rest of the world's - economy. They didn't do much about tax havens, which is very comforting for the rich and the likes of Bernard Madoff; not much financial support was pledged for the world's poorest and most of the leaders of the rich countries are still leaning towards protectionism. When it suits and profits them, they world's wealthy countries very much promote and emphasize 'free trade' and when they feel threatened, they revert to protectionism and nationalism. Still, only time will tell how much they have achieved in London.

Meanwhile, the recent world economic downturn hasn't, so far, had much negative effects on ordinary people here. Though Yemen has lost much from oil export earnings, most ordinary people's lives, here, hasn't changed much.

Fruits and vegetables like these above in Al Mukalla's main market, most of which are locally produced, are still expensive. Some, like oranges, apples and pears - mostly imported by road through Dubai - have risen in prices.

Fish, which is abundant here and of a large variety - used to be very cheap. Not any more. Yemen, especially Hadhramout, is known for its large and good quality fish stock. But due to wrong ways of fishing now being used by fishermen, and the many multi-national fishing companies and boats now involved in the fish trade - fish, compared to a few years ago, has become very expensive and good quality fish is now a luxury for most. Not all is bad. So far.

There is the good side and blessings of how the rich world's economic slow down has benefited most of us here. The most important and essential foods used here, like wheat flour, rice, grains, sugar and cooking palm oil have become cheaper; much cheaper than what we expected. Building materials like cement, though not essential, but important too - have become cheaper too; the biggest surprise is by how much the price of building steel bars have tumbled: less than six months ago, the price of one tonne of all sizes of steel bars was about 280,000 Yemeni Riyals, now it's at about 70,000 Riyals a tonne; incredible. Meaning many more people can now afford to build their homes.

We here, unlike in the developed countries who get their homes and many of their material processions through mortgage, do slowly, some times taking many years, by cash payment, build homes to live in. And we, except for a very few, buy all our other processions in cash; if those in the rich countries had not lived lives of borrowing through mortgage and living beyond their means, their won't have been an urgent G20 summit. A summit that seemed wasteful and more on the lavish side, than meaningful.