Yemens donors meet on fixing nations economy

RIYADH: Yemen’s main donors are meeting here today on how best to deploy billions of dollars to strengthen the Sanaa government and stem the rise of violent extremism in the Arabian peninsula country.

Officials from the six Gulf Cooperation Council members, Yemen’s largest financial backers, and also from other major international donors began two-day talks at the GCC headquarters on helping fix the economy of the Arab world’s poorest country, a GCC official said.

At issue is finding remedies to Yemen’s deteriorating economy and political stability, and ways to speed up the flow and impact of foreign aid to the country. But donor representatives at the meeting are not expected to make new commitments in aid, instead figuring out what has gone wrong with earlier pledges.

In November 2006, donors pledged $4.7 billion to help the government of Yemen but less than 10 per cent of that amount has so far been deployed. Donors say that President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government lacks the capacity to absorb and make efficient use of the funds on offer, and also complain that significant parts of disbursed aid is lost to corruption.

“Nothing can be done quickly” to help Yemen’s economy, said Abdulghani al-Iryani, an independent Yemeni development consultant. “The problem of the dysfunctionality of the Yemen government is a deep structural problem which has to do with the concentration of power,” he said.

The GCC members — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — are the biggest supporters of Yemen. Saudi Arabia especially views the frail economy of its southern neighbour as a security threat, feeding the rise of the the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the past two years and the resurgence of rebel movements that have spilled over into Saudi territory.

Led by Yemenis and Saudis, AQAP was behind attempted attacks in Saudi Arabia in the past year, and also claimed the December 25 attempt by a Nigerian to blow up an American passenger jet landing in Detroit.

The failed Christmas plot sparked an urgent international meeting in London in late

January, which launched a

new effort to help Yemen.