World Bank Lays the Groundwork For Plan to Aid Revival in Yemen

Article Summary
Amid Yemen’s domestic political turmoil and rampant poverty rates, the World Bank has stepped in to help get the country back on its feet. Director Wael Zakout is optimistic about Yemen’s prospects for improvement, saying that “economic revival” is the key to healthy political transition. Ibrahim Mahmoud reports.

The World Bank announced its eagerness to start implementing the projects it is funding in Yemen in order to secure the basic services that were affected by the country’s recent political turmoil and to create short-term job opportunities.

The director in Sana'a, Wael Zakout, explained that the World Bank is collaborating with the Yemeni government and its development partners — the European Union, the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank — to assess the social and economic problems caused by the crisis.

He said yesterday [March 29] that the World Bank "is helping the Yemeni government develop an economic plan to cover the two-year transitional period,” and that “these documents will be ready by the end of next April. They will be used to identify priority areas in need of support.”

He stressed that the main challenge during the transitional period "lies in the improvement of basic services, reviving the economy and establishing modern institutions."

Zakout said that everyone "is eagerly awaiting the Bank’s leadership in facing these three challenges, as an economic revival would allow the transitional government to have more political options. This will help in organizing a national dialogue for developing a new constitution and making reforms that will lay the groundwork for the upcoming elections."

He said that he is in contact with civil society, youth organizations, the Yemeni opposition, academic bodies and research centers, stressing that "the Bank is not dealing only with the government."

As for the Bank's long-term objectives in Yemen and the possibility of their implementation, Zakout said, "We are working with the transitional government to determine the transformational participation over the next two or three years, which will lead to permanent improvement in Yemen’s social and economic development. We are also working on improving infrastructure facilities such as electricity and drinking water and we are helping reform the educational system."

He assured that "the World Bank has pledged to support improved management of public finances and to encourage the involvement of the private sector in promoting job creation, economic growth and poverty reduction.”

He did not overlook "the lack of resources in Yemen, including water, at a time when population growth has reached record highs," saying that the population-growth rate in Yemen "is one of the highest in the world, which will put additional pressure on its limited natural resources."

He also noted the "outbreak of widespread malnutrition, especially among children, and extreme poverty. At least 47% of the population earns less than two dollars a day. Add to this a high unemployment rate and scarce employment opportunities, particularly for the youth."

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