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Government ministries evade financial responsibility for branches of state's slaughterhouses.

The 2011 uprising removed a 33-year leader, but also had many unintended consequences. The General Slaughterhouse and Meat Markets Corporation (GSMMC)'s Sana's branches went from bringing in an average of about YR45 million monthly, about $200,000, to a low of YR3 million, or $14,000 a month, during the height of the upheaval. Pre-uprising, the government supervised corporation was self-sustaining financially, independent of state funding.

Not anymore. Although there have been signs of an improving economy overall in Yemen, at the GSMMC in Sana'a employees are not happy. They have not received their salaries for the past three months, and have been passed around for the past year from different ministries to absorb employee costs as they can no longer function financially without state support. Now, they want the central government to take full responsibility for the corporation, but a delayed decision by the Finance Ministry has put workers out. GSMMC worker Mohammed Duhaim has been showing up to work at the same job for the past 14 years. He told the Yemen Times he has had to borrow money these past few months to cover his expenses because of a lapse in pay.

Although it has always been supervised by government ministries, the GSMMC was originally set up to be financially independent from the government and in many governorates it still is. But, Sana'a is slightly different, it was originally supervised by the Ministry of Public Works and Highways. But in 2007, it fell under the supervision of the Ministry of Local Administration. Most recently, it fell under the capital secretariat's jurisdiction, who were initially paying the salaries of workers at the beginning of the year but stopped in April.

The GSMMC's 632 workers in Sana'a are demanding the government officially absorb the corporation and want the Finance Ministry to take responsibility for staff salaries. Workers say job security for them means government jobs.

The Cabinet has agreed to the workers' demands and gave orders in May to the Finance Ministry to allocate a budget for absorbing the corporation.

But, the Finance Ministry says it is already overburdened, and opposes adding the employees to the government pay-roll. While the government debates its responsibility to the GSMMC, the employees say they are the ones suffering and are at a loss as to what to do. The corporation says it needs YR27 million, $126,000 monthly, to meet all its expenses, including salaries, electricity bills and contracted cleaners.

The delay and the unpaid salaries has made workers unmotivated, said Ahmed Edrees, the corporation's director for the Sana'a branch, and it's compromising hygiene and putting the public's health at risk. While workers continue to show up, they do so halfheartedly and some not at all. "Bones and carcasses pile up while cleaners' wages are delayed. This situation [here] is very awful," said Wael Al-Domani, the deputy head of a GSMMC's factory.

According to law, animals are required to be taken to the GSMMC to be inspected and slaughtered. There is a central slaughterhouse and 12 other branches of GSMMC in Sana'a. Each branch is responsible for all the animals raised for slaughter in their area. Each animal is supposed to inspected and slaughtered at the GSMMC and returned to owners to be butchered and sold.

On average, 80 animals are slaughtered daily at the central slaughterhouse. Those animals are then returned to the owners.

In addition to YR27 million needed to cover its monthly expenses, the corporation also has YR97 million in accumulated debts.

Like his employer, Duhaim remains riddled in debt.

"I found it necessary to borrow money. I keep expecting to receive my salary, but so far, have not been paid," he said.

In a little notebook, Duhaim has scribbled down all his debts.

"My salary is YR30,000. When it [finally] comes, it will go in the blink of an eye," he said.

Duhaim and other employees filed a lawsuit against the Finance Ministry in April. The employees have also called for bonuses, saying they haven't received any since 2005.

Anwar Al-Sha'ri, the head of the butchers syndicate, told the Yemen Times that the syndicate held a meeting on Sept. 10 and invited the Finance Ministry. The ministry did not attend, he said.

Finance Ministry budget deputy Ameen Al-Mohamadi said the ministry has supported the corporation for an entire year and that it is not in a position to hand over YR27 million a month given the fragile state of Yemen's economy.

"This corporation should run as it was run in the past, and it should be responsible for itself," Al-Mohamadi said. "So people leading this corporation have to find solutions and get back to where they were." Al-Mohamadi is afraid that if the Sana'a branches are absorbed into the government budget, branches from around the country will demand the same.

Corporation workers are nearing their fourth month without salaries. Whatever the solution, it must come soon.

"My salary is my family's [only source of income], it is my livelihood. It keeps me and my children alive. Without it, we are desperate and feel insecure. We deserve our salaries," Duhaim said.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Sep 24, 2013
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