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|Emmanuel Mbi, World Bank Country Director for Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen:|
“The government of Yemen has not denied having corruption, and we know that the government is making a genuine effort to fight corruption. The government has come up with strict laws that limits corruption in the country, and launched campaigns against corruption. Before, there were no rules to limit corruption, but now the rules are very clear. The only thing left is to train people to follow the standard procedures.”
Interviewed in Washington D.C. by Hakim Almasmari (YEMEN POST STAFF)
Article Date: November 10, 2008
Yemen Post: The World Bank started its work in Yemen in 1971, what has the bank accomplished during this time in Yemen?
Emmanuel Mbi: The bank has been able to show the world that Yemen is an important member of the international community, and that Yemen cares greatly for the development of its citizen. However, keep in mind that a country’s development is the country’s responsibility and the World Bank can only provide support.
Yemen Post: It what sectors does the bank focus more in Yemen, and what positive has come out of the projects that the bank completed?
Emmanuel Mbi: The projects in Yemen from the bank have been balanced. We focus a lot on the educational sector The bank has also supported projects concerning roads and infrastructure in major cities like Aden, Taiz and Mukhalla. If you go to Taiz, you will see that the bank has worked strong in the infrastructure across the governorate.
Yemen Post: Does the bank have any conditions when it gives Yemen loans or funds?
Emmanuel Mbi: There is always some suspicion that we have conditions or that we tell Yemen to do this or that, but we look at how we can get urgent projects moving instead of making conditions. However, the bank wants to make sure that the funds it gives are used wisely. In general, there are no confidentialities, but we try to make sure that the projects go well. This has confused many people.
Yemen Post: How do you look at the current poverty rates in Yemen, which only seems to get worse after the international economic crisis?
Emmanuel Mbi: These are very difficult times for the whole world and not only Yemen. We have to fight hard against poverty. We know that the country is doing major efforts to ease the crisis in the country. In the past, people did not know how many people were poor in Yemen, but with our studies, we now know the percentage of the poor people in the country and which parts of the country they reside in, which in result makes it easier for us to give funds to the places that need it most. In my point of view, if you give the people education you give them the means to come out of poverty, and that is why our efforts on education are strong.
Yemen Post: In a World Bank report, it mentioned that poverty rates increased 6% last year in Yemen. Does the increase in poverty rates go back to the international financial problems?
Emmanuel Mbi: It is not linked with the international financial problems because the current crisis is less than a year old. How I see it, is that now we measure the matter better than before because we know who of the people are poor and what they need, but the situation will need time to improve.
Yemen Post: Some observers in Yemen mention that the World Bank is directly behind the underdevelopment in Yemen and its actions will assure that the country continues to go backwards?
Emmanuel Mbi: We want to help the poor and produce more food in countries that have high rates of poverty. We try to use what we have to help countries trade more in order to give them better chances financially.
Yemen Post: In your opinion, how can Yemen decrease the number of poor citizens in the next 5 years?
Emmanuel Mbi: We have a great phenomenon today in the financial crisis, which is increasing poverty rates around the world every day. In addition, there needs to be a strong focus on the agricultural sector to improve the living standards of the people while in the same time gives them a chance for labor.
Yemen Post: Yemen is a country known for the spread of corruption in all governmental
circles, however, the World Bank ranked Yemen first among Arab countries in fighting corruption?
Emmanuel Mbi: The government of Yemen has not denied having corruption, and we know that the government is making a genuine effort to fight corruption. The government has come up with strict laws that limits corruption in the country, and launched campaigns against corruption. Before, there were no rules to limit corruption, but now the rules are very clear. Therefore, the only thing left is to train people to follow the standard procedures. This is why I believe that Yemen should be given credit for what it accomplished over the last few years in this matter. For those who live in Yemen, they can compare the practice of the law before and now, and will certainly notice that now the law has started to be practiced, whereas in the past no one cared about the law. Now is the time to train everyone for the laws, and to make sure that all officials know what are the punishments that will take place if they violate such laws.
Yemen Post: Internationally prices increased on average 10 percent, while in Yemen some commodities increased more than 200 percent of what they were 3 years ago, how can you explain that from your expert point of view?
Emmanuel Mbi: Yemen imports a lot grains and that is why I focused previously on the importance of production inside the country. If Yemen was a producer, the price increases would have been lower, but prices are high in Yemen because almost everything is imported.
Yemen Post: How much did the bank invest in Yemen in 2008, and will the fund increase in the upcoming years?
Emmanuel Mbi: In 2008, in terms of new projects, we plan to invest $159 million. In addition, over the next three years the fund from the World Bank to Yemen will increase at about 40%. All the money will be given to Yemen as grants and not as loans.
Yemen Post: How much does Yemen owe the World Bank, and when will it be able to pay its debts off?
Emmanuel Mbi: Yemen owes the bank $860 million, but all the money we give to Yemen from now are grants.
Yemen Post: Ten years from now, how can you picture Yemen?
Emmanuel Mbi: People in Yemen are very welcoming and I think that poverty will be a thing in the past. I see Yemen playing a major role in the region. See, a major strength in a country is its human resources and Yemen has that. This is a good tool to ensure the country goes forward.