WASHINGTON, December 9, 2014 – Yemen has made significant progress in advancing the political transition, but in the absence of robust economic growth and job creation many families are still struggling to make ends meet. The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved an emergency grant of US$90million to reinforce the Yemeni government program designed to protect the most vulnerable segment of the population.
The objective of the Emergency Support to Social Protection Project (ESSPP) is to allow the Government of Yemen to maintain social spending while pushing ahead with vital economic reforms. The project will finance cash transfers to about 1.21 million poor families through the country’s main social safety net program, the Social Welfare Fund (SWF). The targeted transfers are designed to ensure the poorest households have access to cash assistance during this period of economic hardship aggravated by the fuel subsidy reform measures.
“Yemen spends more on fuel subsidies than education and health combined,” said Wael Zakout, World Bank Yemen Country Manager. “Reform of fuel subsidies that disproportionately benefit the rich will help reduce the large fiscal deficit and direct precious public funds to pro-growth, pro-poor outlays. One of the goals of the project is to provide the poorest with the means to cope with the resulting higher fuel prices.”
The grant for the ESSPP will be issued by IDA, the World Bank Group’s arm for the poorest countries. In addition to funding the cash benefit, the project will also support measures that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of SWF in poverty reduction. To achieve this, the project will finance a survey to update the list of beneficiaries and reassess their eligibility. The project also forms part of a larger, coordinated multi-donor response to Yemen’s economic challenges. The United States of America has contributed an additional US$28.47 million to support the cash transfers operation.
“By our estimates, more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line and nearly as many are food insecure – they need immediate assistance to prevent a further deterioration which could last decades and be more costly to reverse,” said Lire Ersado, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “We are responding by supporting cash transfers to about 7 million of the most vulnerable Yemenis, over half of whom are women.”
The Bank’s current portfolio in Yemen consists of 35 projects with US$1.1 billion million in net commitments. The support focuses on addressing urgent needs while promoting a stable environment for the transition and laying the foundations for sustainable and inclusive growth. Bank activities are spread across a range of critical sectors including education, social protection, infrastructure, health, water, agriculture and governance.