By Samir Salama
Abu Dhabi: Yemen said on Monday it needed not only assistance from donor countries to finance development programmes but also jobs for skilled and semi-skilled Yemenis in the Gulf, according to a senior Yemeni official.
"Yemen wishes this meeting will address dire challenges in the short and medium terms, namely recruiting Yemeni skilled and low-skilled workers in labour markets of the GCC countries and financing development programmes," Hesham Sharaf Abdullah, Yemen's deputy minister of planning and international cooperation, told the inaugural Meeting of Friends of Yemen in Abu Dhabi.
Abdullah told reporters after the opening session that his country's fourth five-year plan (2011-2015) requires $44 billion in the form of grants, soft loans and investments.
Yemen has got great support for development programmes in London Donor conference in 2006, but approximately 30 per cent of the amount pledged at the conference was honoured, he said. Donors pledged to provide $4.7 billion to Yemen at the conference.
"Of the $2.5 billion pledges from the GCC countries, around 15 per cent was honoured and around 30 per cent is expected to be honoured this year," Abdullah said. This meeting will submit recommendations and the fourth five-year plan of $44 billion to Yemen friends' ministerial meeting to be held in Riyadh in May.
The group, which includes representatives Yemen's Gulf neighbours, the US, Britain and Germany as well as of intergovernmental organisations, was established at a high-level meeting on Yemen in London on January 27.
The UAE told the meeting, held at the experts level, the onus is on the Yemeni government to address its challenges.
"The role of the donor countries and the international community is supportive, but the onus is on the Yemeni government to overcome its challenges," said Khalid Al Gaith, assistant foreign minister for economic affairs.
He added the donor countries and international organisations, particularly the World Bank, have come to a conclusion that the security situation in Yemen is a major obstacle before achieving a quick economic growth.
Friends of Yemen is comprised of two working groups, one on "economy and governance," and another on "justice and rule of law."
Human Rights Watch urged the Friends of Yemen, to emphasise on improving the justice system and the rule of law, to reverse the deteriorating human rights situation in Yemen, and not to offer economic support unless human rights concerns are addressed.
The Yemeni official expressed the hope the meeting would come out with establishing an international fund for development in Yemen. Yemen is facing a rebellion in the north of the country; growing unrest in the south; and the threat from Al Qaida's regional offshoot.
Not to mention dire poverty, a population explosion and dwindling oil and water resources. The Yemeni official said his country will spare no effort to fight terrorism and boost security and stability in the country.