World Bank Organizes A Workshop on Urban Sector Strategy in the Context of Decentralization [Archives:2001/19/Reportage]

May 7 2001

The World Bank in cooperation with the Yemeni Government organized last Wednesday at the Haddah Hotel a workshop on urban development in a decentralized context. The workshop was kicked off by an opening speech by Mr. Sadeq Amin Abu Ras, Minister of Local Administration followed by an introductory speech by Mr. Gianni Brizzi Manager of the World bank, Sana’a Office, in which he highlighted the twofold purpose of the workshop. “The first objective is to present the findings and recommendations of a recent study by the staff of the World Bank on the key challenges engendered by urban development in Yemen and the possible strategies to manage it effectively. The second is to promote a discussion that will help clarify some of the most critical aspects of urban development, such as the transition to decentralized administrative structures, the mobilization of local financial resources, and hopefully help from the government to define a comprehensive urban development strategy associated with appropriate urban development programs,” said Brizzi. He referred to a combination of factors that seem to influence the urban development in Yemen in the near and more distant future. Such factors include the facts that Yemen is a predominantly rural country with very high fertility rates, a prevalently rural economy dependent on oil exports, a highly centralized country in the process of decentralization, etc.
Among the challenges and opportunities resulting from the urbanization process he mentioned:
*the need for creating jobs for an increasing urban population that tends to be more demanding economically and more active politically;
*the complexities and risks associated with the need for reforming the national civil service while developing a local civil service. The development of local administrations may result in inflating the already inflated national civil service with devastating effects on the country’s macro-economic stability; and
*the need for managing urban growth in a way that is environmentally sound. This not only includes the issues of congestion and pollution but also the issue of access to water and easier communication and transport systems. Eventually this calls for a different spatial distribution of the country’s population and economic activities to the advantage of the coastal areas. The existing North to South urban development axis from Sana’a to Aden via Damar, Ibb and Taiz should be completed with a transversal urban development axis from Aden to Hodeidah through Lahj, Taiz and Zabid.
Then Mr. Omar Razzaz, Lead Urban Specialist, World Bank shed light on the main elements of urban sector strategy.
The discussion that followed dealt with such issues as: Providing Public Services, Building Capacity at the Local Level, Financing Local Authorities, The View from the Governorates and the Role of the Donors.
Most contributions from the Yemeni participants stressed the fact that decentralization is a long process spanning 10 to 15 years. The reasons for such a long duration are the following: the decision-makers disbelieve in the ability of the public to manage their own affairs and problems. They suggest that the beginning should be by educating the decision makers and raising their awareness about the people’s abilities and capabilities so as to convince them of the need to give some authority to the local councils.
The workshop was attended by representatives of the donor countries and a few Yemeni representatives of governmental institutions and ministries. Ambassador of Holland expressed his disappointment at the absence of ministers and governors in the workshop.