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We are planning our support for Yemen and we need your help

David Craig's picture
Also available in: العربية
World BankYemen is at a critical stage in its transition. At the World Bank Group, we want to do everything we can to support this process. To that end, we are trying to figure out what types of engagement will provide the maximum benefit, which we will then organize into a two year plan called an Interim Strategy Note (ISN). This is where we need your help.

One of the important lessons we learned from the ‘Arab Spring’ is to listen more carefully, to a wider range of voices - especially when we are developing new strategies. We are redoubling our efforts to reach out to all members of the communities we intend to support, to give everyone an opportunity of being involved right from the beginning in the design of our programs and projects. This is the only way of guaranteeing that our engagement will match the needs and ambitions of those we set out to help.

We are currently holding a series of discussions in Sana’a with a range of government officials, representatives from civil society and academia, and the donor community.  Security concerns have forced us to restrict our consultations to the capital, but as soon as circumstances allow we look forward to reaching out beyond Sana’a. The recent discussions have provided valuable feedback which we will include in the design of the ISN. But it is not enough. We need to hear from YOU. Your insight will help us deliver the right kind of help, to where it is most needed.

Please help us with your feedback on the following questions: 

o What role should the World Bank Group play in supporting Yemen’s transition?
o Are the proposed areas of engagement (please see the paragraphs below) appropriate? Will they meet Yemen’s demands and needs?
o What are the key risks and how might we prepare for them?
o How can we improve the implementation of our program?
o Are there things the World Bank Group could do differently?

We are all too aware that the transition process will have to deliver some immediate and tangible results as proof that it is working and worth the continued commitment. The ISN will therefore focus primarily on short-term, confidence building measures, such as helping the transition government restore economic stability and basic services, meet immediate needs with improved social safety nets, and deliver as many short-term jobs as possible through investments in public works. This would be coupled with medium-term efforts to create the right kind of environment for the long-term goal of private sector-led growth and job creation. An overriding concern in the design and implementation of all our plans will be to ensure that they are in tune with the goals of the revolution, that they foster inclusion and participation, of young people and women in particular, and promote transparency and accountability.  The strategy we are preparing has organized these various concerns into four major categories.

The first is the promotion of economic stability, with projects aimed at strengthening economic management and improving fiscal policies as well as the performance of the financial sector. The second is the protection of the poor, to be achieved by addressing immediate and urgent needs, restoring basic services and enhancing social safety nets, and creating short-term jobs. The third is the revitalization of the private sector as the future source of growth, through targeted support for small and medium enterprises, better access to finance, educational reforms to ensure Yemenis are equipped with the skills and knowledge required by a vibrant private sector, and reforms to the business environment to make it more attractive to both domestic and foreign investment. The fourth and final category is best described as better governance and local service delivery, which includes everything from strengthening institutions and building up their capacities, as well as bringing government closer to the citizens and making it more transparent and accountable through enhanced citizen participation and better access to public information.      

Before concluding this note, let me reiterate that we would like to do as much as possible for Yemen but at the same time we don’t want to over-promise on what we can actually do over the next 18-24 months, given the current transition and some of the political and security related uncertainties in Yemen – we would like to be ambitious in our plan but also realistic.  

Does it sound like we are on the right track?

Please let us know. 

Comments

Submitted by Adel on

• I think you are in the right track. Yet, there should be an immediate activity aiming at alleviating poverty of the most poor quickly by enhancing the allowances and the reach of the safety net. Injecting reasonable amount into the economy thru the Social Safety Net will, in my opinion, do wonders. It will stimulate the economy, alleviate the extreme poverty and also bring good image. To this end, a direct support of the Social Care Fund is needed but with some technical support to ensure the proper usage of the money and the right targeting.

• Also, financing public work projects is fundamental to create short term jobs with special attention to countryside areas to help move people back to.

• Support the micro finance sector to expand its lending programs especially in the suburban areas with easier conditions.

• Enhancing exports in the short term especially agriculture is critical to provide jobs and income to good number of citizens.

• Providing direct support to the budget (certain and particular budget lines that serve the public most) while imposing some measures on the government to fine-tune spending is a good measure to be considered, in my view.

• Provide some technical support to the new government to be able to determine what they need to do for the transition period and beyond is critical as it seems that ministers and their teams do not know what to do now and later.

• In addition, I think in the medium term we should start thinking of enhancing the entrepreneurship culture and enhancing access to finance in the country as a means of creating jobs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

o What role should the World Bank Group play in supporting Yemen’s transition?

The World Bank should support the National Dialogue and political reform roadmap by ensuring full equitable engagement between disputed parties and stakeholders including women, youth and CSOs. Dealing with Yemen’s conflict is sensitive due to the demographic features of the population of Yemen, including population density, ethnicity, education level, economic status and religious affiliations. Equal representation in this stage will more acutely assist with the transition plan. The Bank should also take in consideration when selecting officials to ensure all people participating in the national dialogue process are trustful, retain the public consent and not affiliated or were part of the old regime. You cannot measure ‘niya’ ( intention-in arabic) but this will be a crucial part of the equation as well. Since no one is working in a vacuum in Yemen we have to match capabilities to intention. Meaning while some have great intention to be part of the transition process they do not have the matching capabilities. On the other hand some have the capabilities but their intention is not aligned with the welfare of Yemen or common good. At the nexus of both niya and capabilities few reside in Yemen and those stakeholders have to be sought out and brought to the forefront of the transition process. Furthermore, Yemen is facing internal and external security challenges that take shape in combatting terrorism and providing national stability and safety for the people. Unfortunately the country has not undergone a significant improvement in reforming the military and security sector. For over 3 decades Yemen was controlled by a tribal-military family that extended their influence and power to control most of the security entities. The former president’s relatives are still holding their security position which weakens the public trust in change. The World Bank should work on security reform that takes place sooner and replacement of the current security officials with capable and trustworthy people. Maintaining security stability in the country is a key factor to flourishing the local and international investments which will improve the deteriorated economic situation in the country. Finally, the Bank should also handle the current challenges presented in low government credibility, capacity and capital; public lacks understanding in transition processes; and weak and fragmented formal civil society sector.

o Are the proposed areas of engagement (please see the paragraphs below) appropriate? Will they meet Yemen’s demands and needs?

The proposed areas are well presented. To precede the implementation of a public plan for stabilization and development the awareness and establishment of initiatives combating the rampant corruption in all administration and political levels is crucial. Without accountability and transparency the short term gains will not be sustainable and only promote temporary wins followed by high expectations ending in disappointment. The match that lit the Arab Spring can definitely reignite the Yemeni population if justice, dignity and restoration of the capacity to aspire for all is not promised, planned for and delivered.

o What are the key risks and how might we prepare for them?

The key risk is having minimal impact with this initiative. The international development community has been working in Yemen for years but the outcomes are not significant and have slightly improved the situation in the country. There should be a sustainable outcomes approach the country uses when engaging with donor entities and vice versa. This is done by setting realistic expectations from the beginning. If the Bank took the wrong measures to assure ISN is going to positively impact Yemen within the right framework and model then it will be a waste of time and efforts might result in detractions. In order to prevent and dissolve the risks brought along by ISN, the following measures should be taken: Identifying and assessing risks to the project/programme early. Streamlining the vision and mission from regional signature (not best) practices identified via case studies; this is simple but many do not avoid repetition of plans that failed in the past; maintain performance and monitoring plans that goes along with ISN implementation period and post ISN; strict honest feedback on stakeholders performance and ZERO tolerance for corruption as well as be able to look in the mirror and say we failed if that was the case. If we pretend we did a great job as the Bank then we do not learn just justify budgets on the other hand if we learn from failures then next time and the one after that will be steps towards progress.

o How can we improve the implementation of our program?

This is a key question. While it is infinitely easier to strategize and come up with studies that seem to be great on paper the implementation has been lackluster to say the least. We have to ask ourselves is it the agencies? The environment? The people? While many focus on Public, Private and the NGO sector as the primary stakeholders. I contend the fourth component is which is the Community has not been tapped into effectively. I would like to see programs including yours delve into 2-3 years studies within the communities that they are trying to ultimately study. Listen to the communities feel their pain understand their aspirations the nuances and even overtime develop a sixth sense. Then an entity can truly engage with the community and country in question and have buy in for its programs. This applies in the West or North when solving our issues why wouldn’t it be possible to partner with and assist with creating local think tanks and universities in Yemen that would partner with the Bank to promote and create these studies and programs. In Yemen this is difficult but the Bank has the opportunity via this program and others to be a catalyst for positive and sustainable change.

o Are there things the World Bank Group could do differently?

In the current situation and for efficient socio-economic development in Yemen the World Bank should be working in the meantime on the humanitarian crisis and the lack of sufficient water and sanitation. I believe the Bank is treating Yemen as if we are trying to treat a patient for long term preventative care while Yemen is hemorrhaging and about to collapse. If we are seen as integral partners of Yemen’s current immediate needs then working on long term sustainable solutions will be easier. The idea is to intervene with stakeholders that have a development approach towards humanitarian aid. Not replicate but complement the Banks strengths identify the weakness and bring its influence to the table when identifying the immediate needs of Yemen.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. The issues you highlighted are the very issues we have been debating among ourselves here in the Bank, but more importantly through consultations with academics, civil society and private sector representatives, and the donor community. It is not within the World Bank's mandate to work on security, political and humanitarian issues, but we are fully aware of the interdependancy of these areas and development initiatives for sustainable results.

The transition government has an opportunity to start addressing the underlying causes of instability and social strife in order to rebuild Yemen’s social and economic base and restore macroeconomic stability. Despite a history of conflict and recent unrest, there is an overall sense of optimism and hope for inclusive change in post-revolution Yemen. However, Yemen’s transition may face significant risks if reforms do not materialize quickly and if Yemenis do not feel that substantive changes are taking place, thus risking a potential return to unrest and a reversal of gains made. It is up to the Yemenis to put Yemen back on a path of development and prosperity, with the collective support of the development community.

The World Bank is committed to accompany Yemen during this transformational period. The overriding objective of the World Bank's strategy for this transitional period is to help the government produce tangible results in the short term, while laying the groundwork for medium-term reforms and sustainable longer-term benefits. This means, in the short term we will prioritize activities that help the poor, who have taken the hit the most, improve their access to basic services and infrastructure, while creating short term employment and income opportunities. We will do so by utilizing existing and well performing structures such as Public Works or Social Fund for Development that work at the community level. For medium term goals, we will continue supporting better economic management, improving delivery of social services, encouraging sustainable management of Yemen's natural resources, scaling up much needed infrastructure, laying the ground work for private sector development and improving governance and transparency.

One area that we will be focusing on, more prominently than before, is improving local governance and service delivery. This will be done through improving the ability of the citizens to demand better governance and support the government in performing better and being accountable to its citizens. We want to work with civil society organizations on solutions for better governance, accountability and transparency. We want to work with the Yemeni youth on creating platforms for public policy and decision making. In our view, enhancing inclusion and participation of citizens is a critical factor in addressing many of the grievances that were at the heart of the 2011 uprising, and we will do what we can within our mandate to support these efforts. In that sense, we also support your views on the importance of community level engagement and building up from grass roots as a crucial complement to the central level efforts for development.

I also note and very much agree with your suggestions on how we can best prepare ourselves to manage risks - a continuous cycle of learning from past experiences, adjusting development theories to the specific needs of the Yemen context, monitoring, measuring and making necessary course adjustments as we move along, and in doing so listening better to the real beneficiaries and keeping an open dialogue with all stakeholders.

Thank you once again - it is very helpful for us to hear insights such as yours which helps us improve our work in Yemen.

Submitted by Rasha on

1. What role should the World Bank Group play in supporting Yemen’s transition?

World Bank support in the transitional period should be: - Support the recovery of the economy; help Yemen improve its investment laws and policies to allow FDI flow. - Focus on recovery and restructuring damaged areas as a result of the conflict such as Hasaba, Abyan, Sa'ada. - Move from your usual implementing partners and support community based projects and CSOs that are youth lead. - Introduce an urbanization project for Aden, paying attention to preserving heritage and archeology, many sites were disturbed during the last few months due to ignorance, the Persian temple is being sabotaged for example.

2. Are the proposed areas of engagement appropriate? Will they meet Yemen’s demands and needs?

It depends on the execution. Sorry but I have low faith on WB. Their intervention in education in Yemen for example was so sad. The Basic Education Development Project (BEDP) was disappointing. For almost a decade I only saw fake numbers of increased enrollment rates without any quality paid to curriculum development. Don't take me wrong Basic Education Development is vital. As such, it is important to select accountable implementation partners, guide sincerely the government of Yemen with ways to reduce corruption, continuously monitor implementation and conduct assessments, focus on lessons learned and sustainability by empowering local partners. Additionally, work with the government on investment friendly policies and with the private sector on corporate social responsibility. Build the capacity of Yemen to be a productive manufacturing country to move from oil-based economy.

3. What are the key risks and how might we prepare for them?

We need the international community to help us reduce government corruption. I don't mean by restricting policies on paying officials working on donor's projects, but I'm saying by helping the government introduce a remuneration system that will be enough for the average Yemeni government official in living a decent live. For example, raise salaries, prevent ghost employment, enhance work ethics…etc.

4. How can we improve the implementation of our program?

Increase your experienced local staff and introduce more transparent recruitment policies. Reassess your current implementation local partners. Put Arabic translation of all project documents for transparency. Check out BIC case of Yemen CSOs requesting Arabic translation of project documents and respond. 5. Are there things the World Bank Group could do differently? This is the first time I see the world bank opening room for feedback from Yemeni citizens on its programmes. This should definitely continue. Good luck.

Thank you Rasha for your thoughtful comment.

World Bank support to education in Yemen over the past years has focused on helping the country achieve universal access to primary education ensuring equal access for girls and boys. By this measure Yemen has made remarkable strides in expanding access to basic education. Its Gross Enrollment Rate for basic education increased from 62 percent in 1998/99 to approximately 86 percent in 2010/11.  For girls the improvement is even more spectacular: enrollment in basic education increased from 42 percent in 1997/98 and to 76 percent in 2010/11.

The really big challenge is the fact that the quality of education remains a real issue. The current transitional government is sharply aware of this and we are working with the Ministry of Education on the next phase of the Basic Education Development Project (BEDP) which will focus mainly on improving the quality of basic education by revising the curriculum to create better competencies for young learners and provide more professional teacher training.

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