WASHINGTON, April 30 (Saba) - The World Bank (WB) welcomed the new structure of the Friends of Yemen Group endorsed by the group's 7th meeting held in London on Tuesday.
The new structure is designed to align support for Yemen with the priorities set at the conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). A senior level Steering Committee was established, along with three working groups focused on the key economic, political and security reforms needed to complete Yemen's democratic transition.
The WB Group agreed to co-chair with the government of Yemen the Economic Working Group of the Friends of Yemen.
"We welcome the new Friends of Yemen structure," said Inger Andersen, WB Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, at the conclusion of the meeting.
"The people of Yemen deserve coordinated, reliable and impactful support from the international community. In parallel, strong leadership in Yemen to deliver on the agreed refocus will be critical to generate growth and opportunity for the people of Yemen."
The Economic Working group will monitor progress on economic reforms and the delivery of donor pledges, while ensuring that international support is coordinated around the reform agenda. There was broad consensus among participants at the Friends of Yemen meeting that robust reforms were needed to address the country's worsening fiscal deficit.
The meeting called on the government to make improving the business environment, addressing the economic burden of fuel subsidies and the removal of "ghost workers" and "double dippers" from the public payroll an urgent priority.
The Friends of Yemen also acknowledged the allocation to specific projects of 97% of the around US$7.9 billion pledged at past meetings in Riyadh and New York. Over the past two years, 63% of the projects have been approved, and 36 % of the funds disbursed; including a US$1 billion deposit at the Central Bank of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. In recognition of the importance of ongoing international support during the current phase of Yemen's transition, donors were encouraged to accelerate disbursements, and to direct aid toward effective vehicles such as social safety nets and labor intensive public works.
"With the expected approval later this month of the strategic Aden to Taiz highway project, the Bank will have allocated 100 percent of the additional US$400 million pledged in support of the transition," said Hartwig Schafer, WB Country Director for Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen.
"We have also leveraged various sources to increase the amount available for future funding by one third, to US$550 million – which will add to our current portfolio of 30 projects totaling around US$1 billion."
The Government of the United Kingdom hosted the meeting of the Friends of Yemen, which was co-chaired by the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Yemen. Senior officials from 39 donor countries and international organizations attended the meeting.