Kuwait’s FM: Yemen’s membership to GCC unlikely [Archives:2005/844/Front Page]

May 23 2005

Walid AL-SAQAF – Washington, DC
Washington (May 22)- Kuwait's Foreign Minister, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed Al-Sabah said on Thursday that Yemen's full membership is not probable because the GCC is a closed pool of countries that have many attributes in common and if it opens up to other members, it will be competing with the Arab League.
rn”The GCC is an organization composed of six Gulf countries and if it opens up, it will be inviting countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and others to join in. In this case, it will be competing with the Arab League. This is something that we would not like to happen.” the minister said.
rn”However, we did admit Yemen to a number of sectors that are regional and does not resemble entry into the GCC, and those include health, education, and sport sectors.”
rnAl-Sabah reminded of the position Yemen took upon the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. “When Saddam invaded Iraq, Yemen supported the Iraqi regime. It happened when Yemen used to receive the largest chunk of assistance from Kuwait. Hospitals, colleges, roads, and various projects in Yemen were built by the Kuwait Fund. It was unfortunate that Yemen took that position in such a time.” he said.
rn”But today, all of that is history, and I can confidently say that Yemen-Kuwait relations have returned to normal.” he added.
rnThe Foreign Minister said Kuwait is still committed to assist Yemen's economic development. “We have set up a marshal plan for Yemen's economic reforms to help eliminate poverty and enhance the standard of living.” he said.
rnEver since the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development resumed its financial aid to Yemen in 2001 after a 12-year gap, joint agreements have been signed to allow Kuwait to provide financial assistance to Yemen in the form of various developmental projects such as schools, roads, and public services.
rnBefore the Iraqi invasion in 1990, Kuwait had already been instrumental in the development drive in Yemen. Kuwait financed many development projects in former South and North Yemen. It built facilities on its expense and handed them over to Yemen as a gift. Such projects include Sana'a University's Medical Colelge, Taiz College of education, Dar Al-Kutob building in Sanaa, the General Library in Aden, Al-Kuwait General Hospital in Sanaa, Al-Hodeidah hospital in Hodeidah, plus 18 clinics and health centers throughout the country and a blood bank and general lab.
rnThe Government of Kuwait had also allocated $12 million to the employees of Kuwait hospital and Sanaa University in addition to paying salaries to 100 secondary school teachers, 130 university teachers, 40 visiting professors at Sanaa University, 50 technicians, 39 doctors at Kuwait hospital, 120 nurses and 35 technicians in the hospital. Kuwait also built up the Police College in Sanaa, the Administrative Development Center, and the General Authority of Aviation plus a residential complex of 25 buildings in Aden with a capacity of 600 flats. Kuwait had donated $32 million for the reconstruction of areas hit by an earthquake in Dhamar in 1982.
rnOfficial statistics demonstrate that the total amount of loans granted by Kuwait to Yemen in 1988 and 89 reached $145.5 million at the time.
rnThe Kuwait Fund for Economic Development granted Yemen $ 295.2 million in soft loans to finance development projects as well. A report released by the Ministry of Finance in 2000 revealed that out of the loans given to Yemen, $ 227.3 million were made use of and only a fraction, $41.1 million, was repaid to Kuwait. An agreement was reached between the two countries to reschedule payment of the remaining debt.
rnEconomists in the country agree that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait did not only cause damage to Yemen, but to all countries to which Kuwait was so generous. In Yemen, around one million expatriates came home due to the invasion which pushed up the rate of unemployment and poverty. It also lowered the Yemeni people's living standards in almost every way.
rnYemeni officials have been in frequent visits to Kuwait since 2002 to strengthen ties and help drive more support from Kuwait to Yemen's battered economy, particularly as the country's oil production is in decline, and unemployment rates are rising.