The World Bank (WB) welcomed the new structure ofthe Friends of Yemen Group endorsed by the group's 7th meeting held in London onTuesday.The new structure is designed to align support for Yemen with the priorities set atthe conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). A senior level SteeringCommittee was established, along with three working groups focused on the keyeconomic, political and security reforms needed to complete Yemen's democratictransition.The WB Group agreed to co-chair with the government of Yemen the EconomicWorking Group of the Friends of Yemen."We welcome the new Friends of Yemen structure," said Inger Andersen, WB RegionalVice President for the Middle East and North Africa, at the conclusion of themeeting.
"The people of Yemen deserve coordinated, reliable and impactful support from theinternational community. In parallel, strong leadership in Yemen to deliver on thegreed refocus will be critical to generate growth and opportunity for the people ofYemen."The Economic Working group will monitor progress on economic reforms and thedelivery of donor pledges, while ensuring that international support is coordinatedaround the reform agenda. There was broad consensus among participants at theFriends of Yemen meeting that robust reforms were needed to address the country'sworsening fiscal deficit.The meeting called on the government to make improving the businessenvironment, 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 fundsdisbursed; including a US$1 billion deposit at the Central Bank of Yemen by SaudiArabia. In recognition of the importance of ongoing international support duringthe current phase of Yemen's transition, donors were encouraged to accelerate
disbursements, and to direct aid toward effective vehicles such as social safety netsand labor intensive public works."With the expected approval later this month of the strategic Aden to Taiz highwayproject, the Bank will have allocated 100 percent of the additional US$400 millionpledged in support of the transition," said Hartwig Schafer, WB Country Director forDjibouti, Egypt and Yemen."We have also leveraged various sources to increase the amount available for futurefunding by one third, to US$550 million – which will add to our current portfolio of30 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 andYemen. Senior officials from 39 donor countries and international organizationsattended the meeting.