By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
International donors yesterday pledged $ 6.4 billion in cumulative aid to Yemen to help the impoverished country rebuild after it was hit by political unrest and an insurgency waged by Al-Qaeda, the World Bank said.
The new figure is up from $ 4 billion pledged to the state at a meeting of the Friends of Yemen in May. Saudi Arabia had solely promised $ 3.25 billion of the $ 4 billion raised in May.
“The total number is $ 6.396 billion, to fund the short term and portions of the long term,” Inger Andersen, the World Bank’s Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa said at the end of the first day of the donors meeting.
The World Bank gave “a grant of $ 400 million on top of existing $ 700 million, of which $ 200 million have been dispersed,” she said.
Yemen Planning and International Cooperation Minister Mohammed Al-Saadi told the donors meeting the country needs almost $ 12 billion in the short term.
In addition to Saudi Arabia and the World Bank, the US has pledged a total of $ 846 million, the Arab Development Fund $ 510 million and the Arab Monetary Fund $ 380 million.
The EU has pledged $ 214 million, while Britain promised $ 311 million, Germany $ 158 million and the Netherlands $ 100 million.
Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf opened the meeting with a call for more aid.
“Yemen is facing many economic problems. The Kingdom hopes to see more contributions to come,” said Al-Assaf while speaking on behalf of Saudi Arabia, which already pledged $ 3.25 billion in aid at a “Friends of Yemen Meeting” held in Riyadh last May.
He renewed his call for greater international efforts to aid the strife-torn southern neighbor. Yemeni officials have also estimated that they need at least $ 11 billion to implement priority plans.
The inaugural session of the two-day meeting at the Conference Palace Hotel was attended by a large number of foreign dignitaries, senior Saudi officials, diplomats and newsmen. Prominent participants included Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindawa, GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani,
World Bank Vice President Inger Andersen, and Alan Duncan, British minister of state for international development.
Al-Assaf signed the three aid agreements totaling $ 3.25 billion with Mohammed Al-Saadi, Yemeni minister for planning and international cooperation. The Kingdom separately pledged to provide fuel and other oil products to Yemen valued at $ 2.2 billion to cater to Sanaa’s domestic demand.
Al-Assaf and Al-Saadi also signed two agreements worth $ 26 million to finance a power project and a vaccination manufacturing project.
Referring to the complex problems and poverty Yemen faces, Al-Assaf said, “The challenges require concerted regional and international efforts to find effective and appropriate solutions to alleviate the sufferings of the Yemeni people.”
Al-Assaf continued: “The Kingdom led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is looking forward to the efforts of nations, international organizations and UN agencies participating in this meeting to support the process of security and development in Yemen. We also look forward and we are hopeful that the Friends of Yemen meeting in New York later this month will raise and pledge contributions commensurate with the magnitude of the challenges facing Yemen today.”
The finance minister, while referring to the political transition after a yearlong uprising that unseated Ali Abdullah Saleh and left the economy of the country in a shambles, said that Yemen was facing all sorts of problems including starvation and malnutrition. “Hence, this Riyadh meeting aims to address several issues including reconstruction, humanitarian needs, and ways to strengthen security and stability in Yemen.”
Basindawa appreciated the kind gestures and support of King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman, and Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal for Yemen and for hosting the two donor meetings. He spoke about the gradual implementation of the GCC peace initiative that will eventually lead to national reconciliation and help restore peace and security in Yemen. He said that Yemen was facing exceptional emergency situations that required urgent help.
Speaking on this occasion, Rajiv Shah, administrator of the US development fund (USAID), said that his country was providing $ 345 million in aid to Yemen this year, going to “security, humanitarian and development assistance. Over half of our support is for political transition, humanitarian assistance and development. The majority of the amount, $ 117 million, is for humanitarian assistance,” he added.
“The total amount received so far is $ 6.396 billion to fund the short-term and portions of the long-term plans of Yemen,” said Inger Andersen, vice president of the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, while speaking on this occasion. The figure includes $ 3.25 billion in aid already pledged earlier by Saudi Arabia, of which a $ 1 billion loan has been paid to Yemen’s central bank.
The United States and Britain are among the other donors, said Andersen.
For his part, the British Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan stressed the importance of the donor meeting and the future of Yemen with special reference to the challenges the country faces. He appreciated the “efforts being made by the Kingdom to support Yemen and fulfill its pledges toward it,” calling on other countries to emulate. The first day of the conference was cochaired by Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the World Bank Group.
The conference aims to offer an opportunity for the international community to take stock of recent developments in Yemen. More than half of its population lives on less than two dollars a day. The number of malnourished children exceeds 50 percent, the second-highest ratio in the world.
Unemployment among youth exceeds 40 percent.