Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Yemen? Yeah, man!

Like many of you, I find myself thinking a lot about Yemen these days. Sure, sure the place is complicated yadda yadda, but I was personally quite interested to see Mr. Lieberman reckoning it will be tomorrow’s war and all.

Not sure what the guy means, I sure hope we won’t have another one of those “invasion” things again (invasion 2.0 they’ll call it), but the good news is that the aid money in yemen and region will increase over the next few years and that is where HRI will come in.

If we play our cards well, HRI & affiliates will manage to pull another one of them proverbial best-of-two-worlds trick on them. What I have in mind is a brilliant practice that will hopefully become standard procedure among all respectable agencies working in Yemen. Here is how it works:

Due to high danger of kidnapping, terrorist attacks and what not, we’ll insist to our donors that no expat should be actually based in Yemen. Which means that all of our expats who are de facto based in Yemen will be formally “based” in Djibouti, Ethiopia or Nairobi where they would pocket a significantly higher post adjustment to their pay – we’ll decide on the final “hub” after we analyzed all combinations of actual comfort, post adjustment index, level of airport connectivity etc. (I personally favor Ethiopia what with that good food, good climate and direct flight to Rome; Dubai and Doha have also been mentioned).

Anyways, once formally based in the “hub”, all expats working in Yemen would be effectively “on mission” while there, which means that they would be entitled to per diem and accommodation in Yemen, in addition to the danger and hazard pay. Meanwhile they can rent out their accommodation provided in the “hub” at a reasonable price to partner agencies who will be surely interested in quality standard accommodation for their expat staff and like so we even manage to achieve some more of that proverbial inter-agency cooperation.

Which reminds me – I need to leave now to attend the Comoro Heads of Agency Country Team Meeting (CHACTM), a crucial coordination mechanism among the “stakeholders” on the island, an opportunity to share ideas and lessons learned, to fill in matrixes and to make sure we avoid duplication. I am talking very important issues that are too serious to be discussed over lobster or the dignified evenings at the Itsandra Sun or one of the other local hang-outs where we all run into each other a bit too often.

Among these crucial items, the agenda for today includes an urgent discussion on the office opening times (we can't seriously claim we are well coordinated if our offices open and close at different times can we?) – this is a contentious issue that has been on the agenda for every CHACTM over the last year and half or so and the stakeholder community are considering hiring a consultant to help us break the stalemate created by two different schools of thought. The one favours all offices to work six days a week 7am-2pm and the other prefers that we all work five days a week 7am-5pm, with a 2 day weekend. This is pretty much an ideological rift between the afternoon nappers and the weekend warriors and, like all grand ideological questions it cannot be resolved by rational arguments, hence the need for a reasonably priced consultant.

You may wonder of course which school of thought i belong to. Well, i am a bipartisan type of person, a peacemaker really, and i can see both ideas having some merit - i am apparently an afternoon napping weekend warrior, and i really hope that the reasonably priced consultant who was hired to help us solve this impasse will also see the win-win potential of this argument and help us reach another memorable best of two worlds moment.


  1. Ethiopia? Seriously? Pattaya has all of the connectivity you'll ever need, plus it's only about three hours from the new Bangkok airport (give or take, depending on traffic and seasonal rains).

    And besides, you simply cannot beat Thai food.

  2. indeed J., pattaya was offered as an option by one member of our board (a gentleman of a certain age and frame, partial to sleeveless shirts, bad tattoos and a tasteful comb-over in the hue known among HRI veterans as “phuket orange”). His very sound argument was the opportunity to collaborate closer with our colleagues in HRI Papua New Guinea who are also 40% posted in Pattaya (with another 40% in Bali where the hardship allowance has been increasing steadily since 2002).

    However some of our other board members disagreed with this proposal as they really wanted to maintain that rough edge perception that Ethiopia still enjoys in certain superior coffeeshops in Maryland and Virginia.

    You see, with HRI it’s not only about money. We like hardship. Plus, maybe I have not mentioned that direct flight to Rome? We like culture too, you see.