Yemen pins hopes on donor conference’s success [Archives:2006/998/Front Page]

November 13 2006

Yasser Al-Mayasi
SANA'A, Nov. 12 ) It is expected that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh flies to Saudi Arabia today to discuss Gulf nations' support for Yemen during Wednesday's Donors Conference in London.

According to an official Yemeni source, Saleh confirmed that he'll discuss ongoing preparations for the conference with Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.

Yemen expects Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to play an important role in making the conference succeed in supporting Yemen's ailing economy, as well as help Yemen obtain donor support to implement development programs and plans in coming years.

Saleh chairs Yemen's delegation at the conference, which will include numerous Gulf finance and foreign ministers as well as a GCC General Secretariat delegation chaired by GCC Secretary-General Abdurrahman Al-Attaya.

Saleh is expected to address the conference to review Yemen's financial and economic reforms, its plans and progress in fighting corruption, poverty and unemployment and steps to implement its national reform agenda.

He also plans to show his government's intention to enhance women's participation in political and social life and develop partnership with donor nations.

Six regional and Gulf financial institutions, including the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund and the Arab, Kuwait, Saudi and Abu Dhabi development funds, also will participate in the conference.

Additionally, several donor organizations and nations will attend, mainly from the United States, Asia, the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Conference participants will discuss documents presented by the Yemeni government, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank and the IMF. The documents focus on Yemen's third Economic and Social Development Plan to Alleviate Poverty, its national reform agenda and fighting corruption.

Yemen's government works hard to attract funding to rehabilitate its economy in order to cope with Gulf economies. Yemen prepared for this step by implementing its third five-year plan for 2006-2010, which Parliament and the Shoura Council approved this past September at an extraordinary meeting held in President Saleh's presence.

The third five-year plan aims to achieve 70 percent growth in all sectors. Despite the fact that several international conferences of this type have been held in various countries, the London conference is important because it's organized solely for Yemen's sake and supported by the U.S. and the EU.

Yemen changed the conference venue from Sana'a to London for fear that some Gulf nations may not attend the event. Additionally, it expected that holding the conference in Sana'a may deter it from reaching serious decisions; thus, Yemen won UK acceptance to host the conference. The U.S. and the UK both directly and indirectly pressured Gulf nations to participate in the conference.

Several meetings in recent days concurred that Yemen needs technical support, as it experiences problems regarding government management of projects, as well as the fact that funds extended to Yemen aren't spent in compliance with their intended plans.

Some donor countries criticize Yemen due to corrupt officials exploiting development funds for personal gain, which has stained the nation's image before donors. Spreading corruption in government offices also has led donors to cut their support for Yemen. Donor countries demand that Yemen successfully manage the projects they fund.

Conference participants are expected to hear documents by the World Bank, IMF and UNDP, which are aimed at correcting Yemen's development policies and strategies, as well as improving its investment climate. The Yemeni government is expected to present $16.8 billion worth of investment projects and programs during the conference.