Christopher Ward to Yemen Times: “if Yemen is launching a war against corruption in the society, we are your partners” [Archives:1999/30/Business & Economy]

July 26 1999

Every country that aims at prosperity and progress pays its full attention to economy. Yemen is one of these countries that has started an economic reform in order to get out the present economic crises. The World Bank has played an important role in this. Ismaeel Al-Ghabri of the Yemen Times talked to Christopher Ward, the Principal Operations Officer, Agriculture and Water Sector, and filed the following interview:
Q: You have attended many seminars about the shortage of water here in Yemen. Do you think the economic reforms can help the implementing the will of the world bank to help Yemen?
A: The world bank exists to help its member countries. In each country we try to understand with the government and other departments what the best system of economic management for that country is and then if the government has a strong economic reform program, then the world bank will support it with advice and with lending operations and that is what we are doing in Yemen. We believe that the government here have achieved enough reforms adjustments and that it is prepared to take the decisions necessary to make the economy on the right track. Therefore, we are backing Yemen to the absolute maximum. We are increasing our lending to this country considerably because of the good economic reform program.
Q: Many high ranks personalities visit Yemen from time to time. What kind of strategy do you think Yemen should concentrate on in order to face problems such as the shortage of water, food, environment?
A: It is true that in Yemen and in many other countries a lot of problems and sometimes it becomes difficult to prioritize. But we believe that there are some very important areas that this country is concentrating on and we want to support the government in to the development of this country. Some of them are in the education, health, social protection programs which are important and is a priority for us in our landing program. Secondly the restructuring and reform of government services and the development of the private sector is also very important which the government is focusing now. We also support this very strongly in our program. The third area is water because water is the life of this country and there is a very little of it and it is becoming more and more scarce. The government has begun to take some good decision about changes in the way water is managed. We support these changes very much and want to invest them. So we see these three areas as a priority: the socio-human development factor, the reform of public services and promotion of the private sector, and better use of water resources. This is what our program focuses on.
Q: The World bank is playing a vital role in the development in Yemen. What are the projects that are implemented and in which governorates?
A: At the moments we have around 25 projects on implemented in every sector particularly concentrated in the rural sector, agriculture and environmental development, human resources sector, education, health, supporting the social fund and other projects and generating activities. We also have a big program in infrastructure for roads, airports, water supply. Finally we have projects and programs in economic reform. We are supporting public sector, management adjustment, administrative reform, privatization, and legal reform. So we have 25 projects in all these different areas. At the moment the value of the bank failure is about $600,000,000. For the next three years we just completed our discussions with the government about our strategy for lending over the next three years. We have agreed with the government that we will have a high case and a base case; a high case will entail lending up to $200,000,000 each year for the next three years and will support about 45 projects each year in the sectors previously mentioned. If economic management goes well and the implementation is good then we will continue at this high level for the next three years. But if problems are not seen at the moment such as problems of economic management then we will pursue the base case which has low level of lending and few projects. At the moment we can say that Yemen is in the high case because of its high and good performance.
Q: How do you see the performance of government sectors? and Are there any plans to get the private sector invest with the world bank?
A: The world bank has an organization called the international financial corporation which invests with the private sector operators. They have about one or two projects in Yemen at the moment. As far as the World bank is concerned our main area regarding the private sector is to help the government widen the framework for private investment, to help the government to define what it’s role and what’s the role of the private sector so that the promotion of the private sector will be very much accelerated. The World Bank does not normally invest directly with the private sector but we work with the government to enable the private sector to have the ability to invest and to make sure the resources are available for it. Privatization projects will ,of course, help the government to transfer some assets or enterprises which are within its state hands progressively to the hands of the private sector. This probably is intended to increase the efficiency of these assets and therefore the national interests.
Q: Do you think the economic reforms of the world bank can help the majority of the people and not only a specific class?
A: Yes, very much. Yemen was in a very difficult situation because over the last ten years Yemen has had several shocks coming from outside including the problems from the gulf war, the costs of the unification, the costs of the civil war and much recently the fall in the price of oil. Those really have affected Yemen very negatively and it has been everybody concern to reduce the impacts of these shocks on the poor sections of the society so our advice to the government as it has always been is first of all to reduce or eliminate subsidies applied to the whole population and to make sure where they can be applied. They help the poor parts and not everybody. Secondly to put in place a social protection network such as the social fund or the public works projects which creates employment, wealth for the poor people. Thirdly, our advice to the government has been to promote very much investments and private sector developments so that there is some economic growth in the country because if there is no economic growth you can never eliminate poverty. The government of Yemen is very much going along these lines and that is one of the reasons why we are supporting it so strongly. Our advice to government is also to study hard and to look carefully to see where the impacts will fall and to make sure that segments of the population is actually helped during the period of adjustment.
Q: Does the policy of the bank aim at eradicating the corruption in the regime system of the government?
A: We are very much aware of this problem which exists in many countries. We always say that our clients are the whole nation; there are not any particular group or class. In case of Yemen the whole population of Yemen are the people that we want to help and support. The World Bank has a very strong anti-corruption policy and all of our staff have been systematically trained in how to identify corruption and how to deal with it when it arises. We also believe that the solution is in identifying individual cases of corruption as they arise and various cases of corruption in business and also to help the country to build the instruments of good governance, the legal, administrative, police systems. Above all we believe that transparency in public life is essential, good public accounting, independent judiciary, information, free press, open parliament all of these things contribute to the elimination of corruption and if Yemen is launching a war against corruption in the society, we are your partners.