The United Arab Emirates may give aid to Yemen, the OPEC member’s finance minister said on Friday, following international efforts to head off a humanitarian disaster and stabilize the impoverished state.
Asked whether the UAE had considered committing funds to Yemen, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who also is a deputy ruler of Dubai, told Reuters: “We always do that. At the moment it has not got anything, but it might be.”
“The United Arab Emirates was, I think, the first nation to aid Yemen. They built a big dam, a lot of schools, roads, hospital, houses, so there are a lot of things going on,” he said aboard a luxury yacht ahead of a sailing race of traditional wooden boats, or dhows.
Saudi Arabia and Western and Gulf states pledged more than $4 billion in aid to Yemen at a Riyadh conference on Wednesday two days after more than 90 Yemeni soldiers were killed in a suicide attack that deepened concerns about al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula country.
Western and Gulf Arab countries have watched with mounting alarm as political crisis in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state gave al-Qaeda the opportunity to develop a base from which to launch attacks around the world
The Saudi kingdom, the world's top oil exporter, pledged $3.25 billion of a total $4 billion in aid to Yemen, where a year of protests against a former president Ali Abdullah Saleh brought the economy to the brink of collapse, with the lawlessness helping boost al-Qaeda militants.
Yemen’s modest oil exports that were a source of vital foreign exchange for the government were hit by repeated attacks by tribesmen on pipelines last year. Some 40 percent of the Yemeni population lives on less than $2 a day.
The UAE, one of the world’s top five oil exporters, donated crude oil to Yemen in the past to help overcome fuel shortages along with Saudi Arabia and Oman.
The Yemeni planning and international cooperation minister told the Riyadh conference, which the UAE also attended, an initial $2.17 billion was needed to help stabilize the country, fight militant attacks and ease the humanitarian crisis.
It requires a further $5.8 billion in future to develop the $34 billion economy, with $3.7 billion needed by 2014. Yemen is likely to run a $2.5 billion budget deficit this year, government officials said.
The Yemeni government said in February that some $3 billion of aid pledged by the Friends of Yemen group when it first met in 2006 has still not been delivered.
In April, the International Monetary Fund resumed lending to Yemen, approving the payment of a $93.7 million loan to help it address a balance of payments deficit that worsened during the political turmoil.
The IMF predicted in April that the Yemeni economy would shrink by 0.9 percent this year after an estimated 10.5 percent contraction last year, which was its worst since the unification of the north and south of the country in 1990.