World Bank Appreciates Yemen’s Commitment to Reform [Archives:1998/36/Business & Economy]

September 7 1998

Dr. Gianni Brizzi is the World Bank Resident Representative in Yemen. He has been working at the World Bank for over 24 years, during which time he has occupied many different posts preparing and supervising projects in different sectors. These include urban infrastructure, transport, water supply and sanitation, industry and finance, and tourism development. Dr. Brizzi worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and some Caribbean countries such as Jamaica.
During the last 4 years, he was initially project advisor for the Middle East, reviewing the majority of projects implemented there. Then he became senior operations advisor of the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa.
He has recently commenced his duties in Yemen.
Ismail Al-Ghabiry of the Yemen Times talked to Dr. Brizzi and filed the following interview:
Q: What are the responsibilities of the World Bank Resident Mission in Yemen?
A: The World Bank Resident Mission has been in the country now for three years, operating quite effectively with a lot of success. We have established a very strong relationship with the country at all levels. Before opening the Resident Mission, project management and supervision were carried out mainly byWorld Bank staff coming from Washington. Now this responsibility is being moved entirely to Sana’a. I myself will coordinate these activities. We will still have people coming from Washington to deal with a lot of specialized inputs, but the day-to-day activities will be mainly done by the Resident Mission.
Q: How familiar are you with the situation in Yemen?
A: I am relatively familiar with what is going on in Yemen since I was Senior Operations Advisor for the entire region. I used to review and analyze all the operations made by my colleagues for Yemen. In addition, I also had the chance of coming to Yemen three years ago, leading what we call a Country Implementation Review. On that occasion I spent two weeks meeting Yemeni officials concerned with World Bank projects. We discussed the issue of implementing the investment program financed by the International Development Association. Obviously there is a lot work that I have to do to become fully familiar with the country. I intend to accomplish these objectives in the shortest possible time.
Q: What are the World Bank programs that will be implemented in Yemen during your term here?
A: We have a program which is generally based on a three year rolling plan. The present three- year program involves credits for an amount of approximately $240-450 million. Right now we are preparing, in association with Government and other national and international stakeholders, a new Country Assistance Strategy. This new strategy will define the World Bank’s basic program for the next three years. This will include technical advice and financial assistance. I hope that we will be able to transfer at least the same amount of money which we transferred during the last three years. Last week, Mr. Inder Sud, the World Bank Middle East Director, had fruitful discussions with the Government on the program that we will have for this coming fiscal year. This program is based very much on the immediate needs of the country, both in terms of budgetary support, required by the declining oil prices, and in terms of creating new job opportunities for the poor. As announced by Mr. Sud in a press conference, the budgetary support will be provided through an operation designed to support the modernization of the public administration. It will help the Government reform the civil service, improve the budgetary and financial management processes and rationalize public investment expenditure.
Q: What measures will be taken to help the poor cope with the transient burden of reform?
A: We are currently operating through two key instruments – the Social Development Fund and the Public Works Project. The Social Development Fund is doing quite well, and the Public Works Project is moving faster than we expected. We are discussing with the Government the possibility of initiating a new community development operation, in which we will provide basic services to poor people in all parts of the country. These basic services will include the improvement of community infrastructures and the construction of health centers, schools, etc., through labor-intensive construction activities. The jobs created will provide income for the population. We believe this is very important. People are suffering because of the adjustment program and they need to see some positive results. We need to support this transitional phase until the private sector kicks off and creates jobs. We are also working on a Child Development Project in association with UNICEF. Also this project will help alleviate the difficulties of the poor. Other projects, such as an emergency operation to improve the power supply in Sanaa, has already been negotiated and will be soon implemented.
Q: Will there be a role for NGOs to play in the economic and social adjustment process?
A: The World Bank wants to have a strong partnerships with Non-Governmental Organizations in the development process. We are providing some assistance for the development of legislation regulating NGO activities. Some of the projects that we are sponsoring, like the Social Development Fund and Public Works projects, require service activities which cannot be provided by conventional contractors or consulting firms. They are better provided by NGOs. So the idea is to work closely with NGOs in order to achieve this common result and also to re-enforce the NGO system which exists in the country. We need more time in order to understand exactly what the situation is, and how we can best address the contribution of the World Bank to the rationalization and strengthening of the NGO movement in Yemen.
Q: What obstacles impede the implementation of the World Bank policies in Yemen?
A: The major challenges that the Government faces now is the development of a public administration; that is service oriented, efficient and responsive to the needs of the citizens. Service orientation is the key to a successful public administration. This is a big challenge.
It is also a challenge to look at how the administration should be organized and structured in order to be efficient in the provision of all these services. The other challenge is strengthening the judicial system to protect the legitimate interests of the citizens. Obviously the World Bank’s major interest is to look at the commercial side. It is very important for the country to have a clear and modern commercial law, which must be applied properly. It is also important to make sure that a proper system is set in place to deal with commercial disputes that may arise between domestic and foreign investors. Land ownership is another important issue that needs to be addressed. Without a clear situation concerning land ownership, it is very difficult for the economic sector to function. For example, banks will have difficulty to lend because of lack of collateral. Ultimately, the big challenge is creating entrepreneurship in the country, because only the private sectors will be capable of creating economic prosperity on a sustainable basis.
Q: Any last comment?
A: I am optimistic. Judging by what I can see and what I hear from different sources, Yemen is a country with rich human resources. I am sure that there are a lot of people who can do a lot for themselves and for others by creating wealth through entrepreneurship and the need to unleash this potential. What is needed is to create an environment which will encourage such entrepreneurship to create jobs for themselves and for others.