x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Yemen to unveil its plan for recovery

The Yemeni government is expected to present a detailed plan for completing an Arabian Gulf-orchestrated political and economic transition today at a summit in Riyadh.

The Yemeni government is expected to present a detailed plan for completing an Arabian Gulf-orchestrated political and economic transition today at a summit in Riyadh.

The document will chart the steps needed to comply with the November 2011 accord that saw former president Ali Abdullah Saleh step down from power, following months of street protests sparked in part by the Arab Spring. A caretaker government is overseeing the transition.

Included in the proposals are plans to address the "acute deterioration of the political scene, loss of security" and an economic and humanitarian environment that has "deteriorated in a critical and unprecedented manner", Yemen's minister of planning and international cooperation, Mohammed Saed Al Sadi, writes in the document's forward.

Based on the plan, Yemen's government will ask donors to fill a forecasted US$11.9 billion (Dh43.7bn) budget gap, of which $4.26bn is required for immediate needs.

Several members at today's conference, co-hosted by Saudi Arabia, the government of Yemen, and the World Bank, are expected to announce donations, to be formalised at a meeting in New York later this month.

The government of Saudi Arabia will reportedly offer to deposit $1bn into the Yemeni treasury. The United States is also expected to pledge an amount.

Conference organisers said that the funding needs in Yemen are urgent.

Failing to address these concerns "would have significant negative impacts on the region and possibly the world," said Wael Zakout, a World Bank country director. "And it would be, of course, a catastrophe for the Yemeni people."

The government is currently drafting plans for a national political dialogue that will lead to the writing of a new constitution, a referendum for its approval, and eventually, elections for new leadership. But more pressing is stabilising the country's economy, which has essentially collapsed. Growth contracted 10.5 per cent last year. Prices on consumer goods rose 23 per cent, and unemployment rates rocketed to as high as 40 per cent among youth.

"This is the biggest concern among people, because we are suffering from lack of services," said Hafez Albukari, the head of the Yemen Polling Centre, by phone from Sanaa. "The first thing that can be an indicator of a failing state is the economic situation."

One particular economic challenge is the economy's dependence on qat, a narcotic substance grown and consumed by an estimated one in seven Yemenis, the draft document says. Although it provides a livelihood for millions, the crop gobbles up scarce water - accounting for 30 per cent of the country's water use - and handicaps the competence of the workforce.

Economic decline has exacerbated the "major humanitarian crisis," said Erich Ogoso of the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sanaa. "Half the population doesn't have access to food, more than half the population is without access to clean water, and nearly a million children [are] malnourished."

Security is another concern. Although the government has managed to retake strips of territory from Al Qaeda-linked groups in recent months, humanitarian organisations said that armed groups are so prevalent they still occupy schools in some areas.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced that it had broken up a terrorist cell linked to foreign elements. Many of the alleged members were Yemeni nationals.

The meetings in Riyadh will last two days, addressing political questions today and humanitarian issues tomorrow.