Yemen Welcomes Germans with Open Arms [Archives:1998/17/Law & Diplomacy]

April 27 1998

Dr. Fritz Fischer is the Director for the Mediterranean, Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean at the Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation, Germany. He was an executive director in the World Bank.
Ismail Al-Ghabiri of Yemen Times talked to Mr. Fischer and filed the following interview:
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Yemen?
A: We have new governmental negotiations with Yemen. Our delegation here consists of members of the ministry, of the German foreign office, the German ambassador, and representatives from the two major agencies that implement our development program: the KFW from Frankfurt and the GTZ including representatives from the local office. A part of our delegation is the local representative of the German Development Service.
We are discussing and agreeing on the continuation of our development corporation on annual basis.
Before we started the negotiations, we spent many days touring the country and visiting some Yemeni projects with the cooperation of Germany, particularly in the health, education and water sectors.
Q: How can you estimate the projects that the German Government implements in Yemen?
A: There are no German projects in Yemen. All the projects to which we make certain contributions are Yemeni projects. But, we have agreed several years ago to focus on certain key areas where our assistance can be of certain values, in the water and sanitation sector, vocational training, health, family planning and primary education.
We are not only helping to realize projects in the country itself. We have a number of advisors in different ministries such as in the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Planing and in the President’s office.
Q: What agreements are you going to sign?
A: We are going to sign an agreement together with the Minister of Planning on annual use of our contribution. In doing so, we have reviewed the cooperation in general and we have agreed on how the resources we make available are used for the year 1999.
As a basis for our negotiations, the Yemeni government has prepared a very impressive dossier with their own project evaluation results. This is the basis of our discussion. Very few countries have prepared for such talks so well as the Yemenis have done.
Q: How much resources are allocated for this agreement?
A: Germany faces severe budget problems that are not of temporary nature. This effects the budget for development cooperation. With many other partner countries we have to cut back the aid volume.
In the case of Yemen, it enjoys a very high priority in our cooperation, and, therefore, the effect of our budget cuts are minimal. In other words, we are in a very fortunate position to offer Yemen, in the year 1998, the same amount of aid cooperation as in last year. We can make available in the area what we call financial cooperation on a large basis, an amount of DM30 million, and in the area of technical cooperation on a grant basis with an amount of DM15 million.
Q: How do you evaluate the democratic process in Yemen?
A: There are good reasons why the relations with Yemen in the field of development assistance enjoy such a high priority. It has to do with the great reform efforts this country is engaged in under a very enlightened leadership.
Progress in reforming this country in the social and economic fields on the basis of democracy with increased decentralization allow more decisions to be made in the country with the active participation of the people. In Yemen, reforms are done in a way which assures the respect of the very culture and tradition of the country.
Of course Yemen still has a long way to go. Our assistance is only a modest contribution because the main input has to come from the government and the people themselves. But we feel that our assistance is very well used.
Q: How do you view the outcome of President Saleh’s visit to Germany?
A: Your president’s visit to our country was a very important point on the agenda, and subsequently a delegation of Yemeni businessmen went to Germany. The conditions from private investment have to be there, particularly in the legal field. We have learned that a lot of laws have been initiated or are debated. Once these laws are passed the conditions for increased private investment improved. This is important, not only in our business relations but in our government-to-government relations.
Q: How many governorates have you visited in Yemen?
A: We went to 4 or 5 governorates and we met several of the governors. I went to Taiz and Ibb and in a special plane from the government, we flew to Shibam in Hadhramaut. Shibam has been declared by the UNESCO as part of the cultural heritage of mankind. The German government has made financial resources available in addition to other donors such as the Dutch, the Japanese and the World Bank for the purpose of restoring Shibam.
We are starting a process which involves the people themselves. We had talks with members of this civil society in Shibam. We think that a rehabilitation of this beautiful city and the environment needs a viable economic perspective. So rehabilitation has to be combined with economic revival. People with the government and the other private agencies have to develop an idea of how they see the economic development in the future in Shibam and around Shibam. Without that, it will be too hard to make a real rehabilitation. It has to be a living city inhabited by people. Its houses need constant maintenance.
Q: Any last comments?
A: This is my first visit to Yemen. I have been looking forward to seeing its beautiful cities for a long time. When I was a school boy I saw the first photos of Sanaa. It was high up in my list to see such a treasure. I heard so much about the people and culture of Yemen. So it was a fantastic experience for me on this basis.
Also, it was very comforting to see much our relations in all fields, whether it was political or in development corporation or in culture, which are in progress. Germany is so much admired here and the man in the street, if he knows that you are from Germany, will embrace you and welcome you. I’ve never met with such friendliness as in Yemen. We feel that our cooperation is very well used. So I leave this country with a very good impression and with all the best wishes to the reform and the government, the democracy and the people here.

Mr. Lothar Klemm is the Hessian Minister for Economics, Transport and Urban and Regional Development, who has recently visited Yemen heading a 45-person delegation of top German businessmen and industrialists.
Ismail Al-Ghabiri of Yemen Times met Mr. Klemm and filed the following interview:
Q: Could you briefly tell us about the relations between the state of Hessian and Yemen?
A: The state of Hessian in Germany, from the economic point of view, is the most powerful state. Our state has concentrated on the Arab region as an interesting market. Yemen is a country with a developing democracy, which also is strengthening its market economy and is inviting German tourists and investors.
We have come to Yemen as friends. We have had negotiations with government bodies and meetings between business representatives from the state of Hessian and Yemen.
Q: How do you see the future relations between Yemen and Germany in general and Hessian in particular?
A: We can open a new chapter in the relations between Yemen and Germany. It is important that enterprises and companies are cooperating. For this reason, we need security in investment. Business relations between the two countries have to be carried out on a legal basis according to the normal and legal relationships among foreign countries.
We know that Yemen is a safe country, but our Yemeni partners must know that any report of kidnapping gives the impression to the international community that safety in this country is not at the required level.
Q: What measures should be taken by the Yemeni government to attract more investors?
A: The government of Yemen has to underline that security of travelers and investments is guaranteed in this country. The second point is that we need security in the relations between the investors from Germany and Yemen. We need more security in the relationship between the trade representatives of the two countries.
We have learned that there are new measures carried out in Yemen and we are very much interested to find out whether these measures will lead to more security in investment and trade relations. The activities of the state of Hessian in Germany will not be limited to this delegation, we are going to deepen the relationship between the state of Hessian and Yemen on an economic basis.
Q: What business proposals do you have for the future?
A: We would like to prepare and carry out a workshop on the topic of solar energy and water treatment, and would like to invite small and medium-sized companies who are concentrating on these two economic sectors.
We think that we can give assistance to the development of a broad health system in Yemen. We would like to give assistance in building new treatment facilities for cardiology, develop orthopedic clinics and we think there is a need for new facilities for treating cancer.
Q: How can the Yemeni-German cooperation be developed in the future?
A: There is already a good basis for developing this cooperation. We would like to take further steps to make this cooperation more promising and effective for the two countries. The fact that there are a few business delegations visiting Yemen at this time underlines our opinion that Yemen is an interesting and developing market for German business.
The delegation was impressed by his Excellency the President’s reception for two reasons. One is that the President stressed the good relations between Yemen and Germany. Second, he was also very open on different issues.
The President stressed the point that we need stronger economic relations between our two countries. We think the President’s proposal is to look at investment project, find out whether they will be promising for both sides and that there is the right agenda for the new cooperation between the two countries.
Q: What impressions have come out with after your visit to Aden and Socotra?
A: After the reception of the President, part of our delegation had the opportunity to visit the island of Socotra and they were very impressed to be given the opportunity.
The idea of establishing a Free Zone in Aden is an interesting idea from my point of view. Historically, Aden has been an important place for international trade that linked different continents. On this historical basis, Aden is an interesting location to develop new trade cooperation between different countries and continents.
The Port of Aden is a harbor for big shipping units and, for this reason, I think Aden has a potential to be an excellent port for big ships. The development of the Free Zone depends on the development of the port. For this reason, I think that the two projects, the port and the Free Zone, have to be developed at the same time.
Concerning the development of the island of Socotra, there are governmental decisions that are necessary. There are negotiations about the idea to develop the island as a tourist attraction, or to develop a Free Zone and an industrial area. As far as we know, the decisions have not been made yet. During our visit we have met many business people and we got to know them as partners who are looking forward to building new cooperation between Yemen and Germany.
Q: Any last comment?
A: We think that the Yemeni business community is an interesting partner for us. We met an interesting business crew in Taiz for example. We were very impressed with this visit because we have seen that the production unit is on a high international level and this group is prepared for international competition. That is our impression from our visit. The name of the company is Mahmood Hayel Saeed / Saeed Ahmed Hayel Saeed. I hope that cooperation between Yemen and Germany will continue in the future.