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Last updated: 01:01:00 PM GMT(+03) Saturday, 19, January, 2013

Political upheaval delays economic growth and social welfare programs

 Yemen Post Staff

A year into the transition process Yemen is no where near a resolution of its political fracture and factions' refusal to compromise is now preventing the government from tapping into international aid money - almost $8 billions were raised at Yemen Donors' Conference in New York in September 2012, donated by countries such as Turkey, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, GCC countries, the United States of America and Germany as well as organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -

At an international conference on Yemen held at London School of Oriental and African Studies on January 12-13, Alan Duncan, Britain Minister of State for International Development stressed that because Yemen was unable to move forward, social and economic progress had been hampered, endangering the fragile balance the political transition had managed to achieve so far.

With the international community's hope pin on Yemen National Conference, Minister Duncan noted “The National Dialogue does remain off-schedule ... which is seriously undermining confidence in the transition process… The delivery of a successful dialogue, on schedule, would be a major signal to the Yemeni people that their leaders are serious about addressing the divisive issues which drive conflict in the country.”

Despite President Abo Rabbo Mansour Hadi's recent claims - Thursday at a meeting with Parliamentarians and the Cabinet - the country should be proud of its progress so far, many are calling for more and faster.

Last month, when delivering his assessment on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, UN special envoy to Yemen told the panel "The transition is threatened by those who have still not understood that change must now occur."
A senior international observer told IRIN on Saturday "the whole process [National Dialogue] is at least two months behind what it should be."

When Yemen signed the GCC brokered transition of power in November 2011 - Saudi Arabia - all parties agreed the transitional government would have for tasks the drafting of a new constitution - more in keeping with modern democratic values - the organization of fair and free presidential elections at the end of its tenure and a National Dialogue Conference which would allow the country to hit the reset political button and resolve old feuds - mainly the southern issue -
However, with only 12 months left to the clock, politicians are skeptical any of those tasks will be completed in time for Yemen's presidential elections, enticing President Hadi will have to say on a bit longer.
As to how the news will be received by Yemenis remains to be seen.

Economic and Social Woes
Although the revolutionary movement was widely popular, one cannot escape the fact it left the country reeling from an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis with a loss of GDP of 10percent and a million jobs loss.
“More than 10 million Yemenis sleep and wake up in the morning without knowing if they will have food for the day,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, U.N. resident coordinator for Yemen.
“With now more than half the population living below the poverty line, and nearly one million children under-5 acutely malnourished, this is not a time for ‘business as usual’ in Yemen,” said Wael Zakout, World Bank Country Manager for Yemen.
According to Peter Rice, coordinator of International NGO Forum in Yemen "families have been forced into negative coping strategies."

He added, “We are seeing an increase in child labour, an increase in early marriage, and a lot of households going into debt to pay for basic food expenditure, which really affects the ability of the family to recover from the crisis, and means that this humanitarian situation is being written into the long-term development of the country.”

Rice worries a "protracted National Dialogue" will prevent officials from concentrating on getting Yemen back onto its economic tracks, which in turn will lead to greater instability as the country' social fabric and rich-poor ratio will spiral out of control.

“Everyone wants this process to work, undoubtedly, but there’s a lot of time and effort being put into the National Dialogue, and it’s important that it gets done so that people can devote those resources to development," he told IRIN.

Economists echoed Rice's concerns over Yemen's inability so far to bounce back from its crises pit, stressing that no tangible development will come forth unless poverty is addressed at it stands they say at the root of Yemen's woes.
Richard Stanford, Oxfam's regional policy adviser complained too that so far the only money that had been earmarked by donors had been solely directed to infrastructures -- road and buildings -- and not welfare programs.

For the most part only charitable organizations such as UAE-based Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Humanitarian Foundation or the International Committee of the Red Cross dealt with Yemen's poorest of the poor by delivering food parcels to distressed population across all provinces.

“If we don’t address and tackle the humanitarian and economic crisis today, there will be no political stability," said Cheikh.

Political Roadblocks
Yemen's political factions reluctance to compromise is now not only slowing down the transition process but crippling the country's ability to rebuilt ifs battered economy and institutions.
Dubbed a failed state, Yemen could still become the Somalia of the Arabian Peninsula with all the danger it represents -- terrorism, internal conflicts, displacement of population, widespread instability --
Despite acknowledgment that Yemen stability is paramount to regional stability, key elements still refuse to participate in the country's reconstruction, at least not under the denomination the international community and the transitional government adopted.
As expressed by Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi "the regional and international powers realize that the unity of Yemen is of utmost importance for the stability of the region and the world. I think that the message which has been carried by many ambassadors to all parties in Yemen is that the unity of Yemen is one important objective of the GCC initiative. No one has spoken about the possibility of separation.”
Problem is that both al-Harak - Southern Secessionist Movement - and the Houthis - Shia rebel group based in the northern province of Sa'ada - argue that since their factions took no part and had no say in the GCC brokered agreement and certainly did not agree to any of its clauses, all bets are off teh table.

At this point Yemen suffers from a serious political misunderstanding, with both the pro and anti National Dialogue speaking on different planes.
And although FM al-Qirbi insists “The Forum will address all grievances;" if several parties decide not to attend, the conversation might be very one-sided.





Yemen Post Staff
Source: Yemen Post Newspaper
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