The poorest country of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is much better known for its over-lapping social, political and security crises than its billionaires’ list. And yet, a country of many contradictions, Yemen is home to some of the world’s richest.
While 40% of its population has been classified as at food risk by World Food Bank for two consecutive years (2012-2013), Yemen is also home to many billionaires’ businessmen, a reality which had many activists ponder over the principles of social responsibility and social ethic.
A country of many riches but with severe social inequalities, Yemen is far from being a land of opportunities, at least not for the majority of the population. With an estimated 14 million people making do with less than $2 per day, most Yemenis would have some difficulties grasping the sheer fortune that some of their compatriots have managed to amass through their businesses.
As the gap in between the haves and haves not has considerably deepened since 2011, as the uprising essentially collapsed Yemen’s already ailing economy and pretty annihilated the country’s middle class by eating away at its savings, notions such as social responsibility and social obligations have arose .
To put it bluntly: What is the social responsibility of the super-rich from an ethical perspective?
Back in 2008 Abu Dhabi sharply criticised its private sector and its most wealthy class by warning that by failing to uphold their responsibility towards the lesser fortunate, society as a whole lose its own sense of moral and values. At the time the Ministry of Planning and Economy declared, “Wealthy people should shoulder social and moral responsibilities towards s generous giving society.”
But beyond the pure ethicality of social generosity, comes the requirements of faith and religion. All Muslims have been given a responsibility of care towards other, in accordance with their means and abilities, whether pecuniary, intellectual or other. With this in mind; how are Yemen’ super rich fairing on the scale of social responsibility?
Hayel Saeed Group
Worth an estimated, $13.5 billion, Hayel Saeed Anam multi-national corporation is owned by one of Yemen’s richest and probably most well-known families in the country. With interests across several industry sectors, ranging from confectionery to banking, tourism and construction, Hayel Saeed group towers over Yemen as a corporate giant.
A pioneer when it comes to social responsibility, Hayel Saeed group has carried on the work of its late founder, Hayel Saeed Anam in terms of charitable work and alleviation of poverty. As part of its corporate ethos, HSA wrote, “a keen interest has been taken to link the economic development, scientific and cultural together to be an integral part of its duty for the benefit of the society.” With a series of working social, educational and sports programs, HSA is by far one of Yemen’s most visible local benefactors. However this is not to say they are the only one.
Younger brother to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the powerful tribal leader of the Hashid confederation of tribe, Hamid is a billionaire entrepreneur with as many billions as he has political influence. The owner of Saba phone and Saba Islamic Bank among many others, Hamid al-Ahmar and his family are said to be worth an estimated $10 billion. Al-Ahmar business’ empire took form in 1987 under the watchful eye of late Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar. A keen businessman with great ambitions, Hamid al-Ahmar managed to turn a successful business into a colossal fortune. Like Hayel Saeed group, al-Ahmar group runs charitable programs, mainly directed to orphans and the most vulnerable (distribution of food, medicine and other necessities).
Shaher Abdulhak Saleh
Maybe one of the most talked about businessman in Yemen due to his high profile friendships with high ranking officials: former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi; Shaher Abdulhaq is also one of Yemen’s most private billionaire, a man, who often shies away from the limelight.
Shaher Abdulhak Saleh’s fortune has been estimated at around $9 billion, almost three times Yemen’s national budget deficit. Although Abdulhaq lost 35% of its fortune on the floor of the London Stock Exchange, back when the Europe was hit by its financial toxic investments crisis, his group, Shaher trading has managed to absorb its international losses and capitalise on its national investments instead.
While it would be wrong to deny that Yemen’ super-rich have indeed given back to the lesser fortunate, one could hope that as the country is tittering on the verge of total collapse, its billionaires would somehow step in where the central government has failed and address their fellow countrymen’s cry for help.