International Organization and civil society call for the cancellation of Yemen’s debts Calls to free Yemen from foreign debt [Archives:2005/809/Front Page]

January 20 2005

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
Monday, 17th Jan, Sana'a – CALLS are being made for the cancellation of all Yemen's debts so the money can be spent on improving the lives of people across the country.

The calls are being made by the Yemen based team of the international campaign and advocacy organization Oxfam GB and Yemeni civil society as part of a global campaign asking the G7 member nations to write off the debts of the poorest countries in the world. This would give them a greater chance to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, by the deadline of 2015.

Oxfam GB gave this call with the Yemeni Women's Union, which is leading the Thematic Working Group for the Civil Societies (SC-TWG). This group consisting of 86 civil society organizations is involved in monitoring the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC).

The Yemeni civil society, including Oxfam GB, say debt cancellation would relieve future generations of Yemeni people from years of being chained through debt to bilateral and international donors. According to the MoPIC, Yemeni debts amounted to USD 5.23 billion in September 2004. A large percentage of the GDP goes to paying the debts leaving much less for the development projects and investments in infrastructure.

Continued on Page 2

In a meeting held on 17 Jan 2005 with representatives of the embassies of the USA and UK, the Yemeni Civil Society led by the Union and Oxfam GB asked them to relieve future generations of Yemen from indebtness to bilateral and international donors.

Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world. With Human Development Index of 0.470, it ranked 148 (out of 178 countries assessed) in terms of poverty as indicated by the Global Human Development Report 2003. The latest Household Budget Survey (1998) revealed that 17.6% of the population lives below the food poverty line and 41.8% lives below the absolute (upper) poverty line.

The Government of Yemen (GoY) started a planned poverty alleviation efforts in the second half of 1990s. In May 2002, the GoY developed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), which intended to reduce poverty by 13.1% in the period 2003 – 2005. In May 2004, the GoY decided to combine the Third Five-Years Development Plan with the next cycle of the PRSP (2006-2010) and to align both with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015.

Ms. Ramzeya Al-Eryani, the chairperson of the Union, said that if all the debts owed to international and bilateral donors went uncancelled then Yemen would not be able to achieve its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“The poor will become poorer if this debt is not cancelled. The Yemeni government has created an enabling environment for civil societies to work and has shown increasing commitment to eradicating poverty but with this debt burden it cannot achieve its goals,” she said.”

Ms. Magda El-Sanousi, Programs Manager of Oxfam GB, explained that Oxfam GB would like to support Yemeni civil society in its demand for the cancellation of debts.

Oxfam and partners globally are calling upon debt cancellation as a moral obligation of the rich countries towards the poor deprived countries all over the globe

” Debt cancellation would not harm the rich countries, but it would make a big difference in the lives of poor in the poorest countries. Debt relief in various poor countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi has enabled millions for children to go to schools. We believe debt cancellation for Yemen would promote justice, human rights, good governance, democracy, gender equality and poverty reduction. It will change the fate of the voiceless poor and humanity at the globe,” she said.

On Sunday January 16, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mr. Alawai al-Salami and HE Ambassador of Japan signed an agreement to cancel Yemen's debt to Japan of $17 million dollars. The initiative taken by the Japanese shows the commitment of Japan to Yemen's development.

Observers believe that this initiative sets a good example for other bilateral and international donor agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF.