(MENAFN - Arab News) ON Tuesday (Sept. 4, 2012), Saudi Arabia hosts a donor meeting for Yemen. A second meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 5) will follow, also in Riyadh, dedicated to the role of private sector and humanitarian organizations.
The main objective of this international gathering is to provide enough funding to fill the financing gap of the Yemeni government's transition plan and embark again on the road to economic growth and prosperity. Because development and security are so closely intertwined in Yemen, this is also a pivotal meeting in Yemen's quest for security and stability.
A second, equally important, objective of Riyadh's meeting is to re-establish effective partnership between Yemen and international donors, which was hurt by the political crisis and inefficiency of the previous government.
It is a good sign that some 50 delegations are expected to take part in the twin meetings in Riyadh, including governments and development and humanitarian organizations. What is more important is that they will be generous enough to provide Yemen with the financial resources it needs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps and get out of the economic and humanitarian crisis that has gripped it for the past few years.
This donors' meeting is the first for Yemen since the successful elections in February 2012 have installed the national unity transitional government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The record of the new government over the past six months has been encouraging as it works to restore law and order, security and stability to Yemen following the crisis caused by refusal of its previous strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh to bow to Yemenis' call for him to leave office after 33 years in power.
The economic and humanitarian crises in Yemen are so bad that they cannot be exaggerated. Consider these indicators that the government has presented to its development partners:
Unchecked population growth, in excess of 3 percent, with two thirds of the population under 24 years of age.
Escalating unemployment, exceeding 50 percent among young people.
Growing illiteracy, as some three million children are denied access to education. There is space for only 70 percent of school-age children of both sexes, even less for girls.
Poverty, as close to 50 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.
Malnutrition, as over 30 percent face hunger and 75 percent do not have access to clean drinking water.
Water resources are running dry, with the situation in some major cities approaching crisis level.
These alarming economic conditions, plus the political impasse and the security situation, have contributed to a grave humanitarian crisis gripping Yemen for some time now, according to extensive reports compiled by the United Nations. Here are some of their findings:
Over ten million Yemenis (40 percent of the population) are suffering some form of humanitarian deprivation. Women, children and refugees are affected the most.
750,000 children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition, which is double the number at the beginning of the crisis in 2011.
500,000 children are at risk of dying this year if adequate support is not provided.
Clean drinking water is in short supply in many areas, causing a severe rise in water-borne diseases.
Lack of vaccines and medical facilities has led to a 20-fold rise in childhood diseases in some locations since the start of the crisis last year.
Children in many areas are not able to go back to school because their school buildings have been severely damaged or else occupied by armed groups, government forces, or internal refugees.
Government resources to reverse these disturbing indicators have run dry. Oil production was nearly halved over the past decade, drastically reducing its revenue from oil. The security situation has made conditions worse for oil production and transportation, leading to severe fuel shortages and reduced export capacity. The government has resorted to importing fuel and selling it at subsidized prices, a situation that cannot be sustained. Budget deficit has exceeded 10 percent of GDP and foreign exchange reserves are dwindling fast.
The government of Yemen is planning to present before the meetings this week an integrated a program of short-term and medium-term priorities. The program was prepared in coordination and active participation from international organizations and key representatives of the donor community. In the short term, Yemen estimates that it needs 4.8 billion to achieve these four political, security, humanitarian and economic goals:
Peaceful transfer of power and restoring political stability.
Restoration of security, stability and the rule of law.
Meeting urgent humanitarian needs.
Reaching economic stability
Of this total, the government is able to generate only 500 million of its own resources, leaving a gap of 4.3 billion it is asking donors to fill.
On the intermediate term, the Government's transition plan calls for 9.6 billion to fulfill a slightly more ambitious vision that includes:
Reviving economic growth
Improving physical infrastructure
Expand social protection network
Developing human resources, including enhancing of the roles of youth and women.
Enhancing the role of the private sector and improving business climate.
Support for good governance and state building.
Of this total, the government expects to be able to provide only about one billion, and is thus asking the international community to fill the gap.
Without going into details about the figures and the proposed projects to carry out these objectives, what is remarkable about the current government is that it is asking for a real and transparent partnership with the donor community. That would be an important departure from the modus operandi the previous government adopted sometimes in dealing with its development partners.
With the changed attitudes and priorities of the new government, donors are also asked to change their approach to Yemen and give generously in a sustained and predictable manner. GCC donors have shouldered most of the burden so far, with Saudi Arabia in particular scaling up its aid to Yemen dramatically over the past two years. Other donors should follow suit, or else Yemen may relapse to a situation of chaos, poverty and desperation with unpredictable consequences.