The World Bank’s executive directors recently voiced their support for a new country assistance strategy (CAS) for the republic of Yemen following a discussion, which highlighted the strides Yemen made in laying the groundwork for public sector reforms under the previous CAS.
Designed as the bank’s business plan for the fiscal years 2003-2005, the present CAS places emphasis on the growth and poverty challenges with the central objective of supporting the government of Yemen’s recently completed poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP).
With a gross national product per capita of $460, Yemen’s 18.5 million people remain on average among the poorest in the world. About 42 percent of households live below the poverty line and approximately 25 percent are unemployed or underemployed.
Basic health indicators remain precarious, despite vast improvements over the last decade. Infant mortality rate stands at 76 per 1000—among the highest in the world—and a high fertility rate fuels a population growth rate of 3.5 percent.
Education indicators are also low — the adult literacy rate is only 48 percent and the enrollment ratio for basic education is 78 percent. The gender gap is among the widest in the world, with only 55 percent of primary-school aged girls attending school and a 15 percent higher child mortality rate for girls.
In addition, Yemen’s meager water supply, at two percent of the world average, leaves 90 percent of the population with less than minimum standards of water supply. Poor access to safe drinking water and poor sanitation especially affect girls and women in rural areas, who must walk for hours every day to collect domestic water.
Building on the Government of Yemen’s PRSP and extensive consultations with civil society organizations and donors, the present CAS adopts four main objectives that highlight the government’s response to alleviating poverty: Improve public sector governance: Promote an attractive investment environment to generate job opportunities; Develop a sound system to build and protect human capital with emphasis on girl’s education and health; Ensure environmental sustainability, with special focus on water management.
"The Executive Directors' support for the CAS provides an excellent foundation for the forthcoming Consultative Group meeting for Yemen, which is scheduled for October in Paris. We hope at that meeting Yemen's friends will be generous in their support,” said Jean-Louis Sarbib, World Bank vice president for Middle East and North Africa.
The CAS is launched with a base case lending level of $410 million by the International Development Agency (IDA), an arm of the World Bank Group, which provides soft loans to low-income developing countries.
The lending will be complemented by analytical and advisory assistance by the Bank to support the reform program in the four focus areas and address Yemen’s constraints in accessing knowledge and linking it to decision making.
The CAS also includes several potential investments by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private investment arm of the World Bank, in activities such as privatization of power generation, privately managed industrial free zones and tourism investments.
With its emphasis on achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability in water, the Yemen CAS is consistent with the Millennium Development Goals—a set of measurable targets embraced by the international donor community to halve the proportion of people in poverty by 2015. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )