Yemen: Total's Unfair Gas Prices

Yemen's economy has been struggling for years, resulting in high levels of poverty and alarming rates of malnutrition. Yet, the corruption cases exposing the former regime's mismanagement and embezzlement of Yemen's wealth have been emerging as the main reason for the state the country is in. The latest corruption case exposed was the sales agreement of Yemen's Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). The corrupt government had signed a 20-year deal with French company Total to sell Yemen's gas at a fixed price of $3.2 per million BTU, a considerably lower price than the global market's rate. The deal is reported to cost Yemen a loss of $2.8 billion yearly from selling it at the current price.

Over the past few months, Yemenis have been organizing marches to reclaim the country's wealth from the regime. The Yemeni government responded to the demand of the street and negotiations took place in France on October 4th in a meeting between between President Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi and officials of Total to adjust the price. Although Total agreed to raise the price to $7, yet it is still much lower than the current global market price which ranges between $ 13-18 per million BTU.

The Electronic Coordination of the Yemeni Revolution addressed a stern letter to Total which they posted in Arabic, English and French on their Facebook page, and sent copies to Yemen's Prime Minister Mohammed Basendwah and Oil and Minerals Minister Ahmed Daris, demanding the purchase of Yemen's LNG to be compatible with the global market price and warning both sides to stop looting and draining the country's wealth.

In a threatening tone they pointed:

We can guarantee you that the People of Yemen will not be forgiving. We will commence demanding compensation not only for the financial loss, but for the bribery of government officials and the embezzlement of our wealth. This case will be taken to the French and international courts.

A march organized yesterday October 16, in Sanaa, headed to the presidential palace where the cabinet was holding a meeting.

Banners held in Yesterday march read in Arabic “The minister's task is to reclaim our wealth not manage what is stolen…LNG deal” and “Total, enough taking advantage of our wealth”

Another banner held in yesterday's march

A poster held in yesterday's march reads in Arabic “Stop stealing our country's wealth…a letter addressed to France and Korea”

Yemeni Abroad tweeted:

@NotUntilHeFalls: Can't fathom why ppl are blaming #Total for making off with cheap gas! It's a business not a charity. Blame the gov #TotalRipoffYemen”

Simultaneously, Rasha Jarhum, a Yemeni activist based in Lebanon, is spearheading a campaign demanding more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from Total which has been operating in Yemen for a number of years.

She tweeted:

‏@rrj_934: #TotalRipoffYemen is a new hashtag 2 force #Total 2 do better philanthropy & CSR N #Yemen after ripping off #Yemenis 4 years – Join Campaign

@rrj_934: #TotalRipoffYemen btw2007 -2010 only 48 #Yemeni students got internal scholarships from #Total they consider that #CSR …

#TotalRipoffYemen #Total CSR is a drop in a sea for #Yemen comparing to its gains

Najla Alhamadi tweeted in response:

@NajlaAlhamadi: @rrj_934 #TotalRipoffYemen #Total is the other dictator in #Yemen As long as they have our gas #Yemen will always be poor.

Luai Ahmed added with irony:

@JustLuai: #TotalRipoffYemen could be talking about the company Total, or just generally saying Yemen is being totally ripped off by everything& every1

TOTAL Group is the fourth largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world and many are skeptical if they would revise their price one more time. Yet Yemeni revolutionary youth and activist through these campaigns are pressuring their government and proving to them and to the world that they are alert and will not allow any corrupt or shady agreements or further embezzlement of Yemen's wealth. They are also demanding more development project of benefiting companies operating in Yemeni soil.

Listing Yemen's natural resources Omar Mashjari wisely tweeted:

@Omar_Mash: With hundreds of miles of coastline, massive untapped natural gas/oil reserves, strategic ports & a huge population; Yemen should not be poor

In fact, Yemen has natural resources that if managed properly by non-corrupted officials and partner companies, can become profitable revenue income sources and hence flourish Yemen's economy. Until then Yemen's youth seem to be relentlessly vigilant and actively working towards that goal.

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