SANA'A// Donors are to meet today in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss how to better enable Yemen to use billions of dollars pledged by the international community to help it combat militancy and poverty. Yemen has spent only about 10 per cent of the US$5.5 billion (Dh20bn) pledged nearly four years ago at a conference in London.
Ali Mohammed Mujawar, Yemen's prime minister, acknowledged there were some inefficiencies within the administration that had held up disbursement of funds, but insisted donor countries also had their own bureaucratic hurdles which made accessing the money an arduous process. The Saudi conference will address these issues and lay the ground for a follow-up conference of the Friends of Yemen in Germany next month. Friends of Yemen includes leaders from the Gulf Co-operation Council, Europe and the United States.
"The Riyadh conference is technical and will address the current challenges concerning the funds pledged by the donors at the London conference and how Yemen can better make use of them. The meeting will also discuss the problems of disbursement of this money," Mr Mujawar said. One of the major problems for Yemen, analysts say, is mismanagement and corruption within government departments. "The first step to address this inefficiency starts with implementing political, economic, administrative and institutional reform as well as fighting corruption," Mohammed al Afandi, the chief of Yemen Strategic Studies Centre, a non-governmental organisation, said in a workshop last week.
"There has to be a focus on boosting the quality and efficiency of the administration and on selecting people who are not corrupt," he said. Without such reforms, any amount of money funnelled to Yemen would be wasted, he said. He suggested that donor countries and organisations set up offices within Yemen to help direct the flow of money and services and ensure greater transparency. Hisham Sharaf, a vice minister of planning and international co-operation, said the government was already starting to discuss how best to use the money pledged, and that 85 per cent had been allocated.
"Small disbursement of funds does not mean we are not in need; our need is bigger than the pledged money. We are working to finish all signing agreements of funds by the end of this year and preparing tenders. If this is completed, we will start disbursement of funds next year." Last month, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, called another meeting of the Friends of Yemen after a Nigerian man who tried to blow up a US airliner was found to have trained with al Qa'eda in Yemen.