Addressing Yemen’s Twin Deficits: Human and Natural Resources

    EDITOR’S NOTE: A large economic development aid is essential to Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East region, as it faces deficits in human development and natural resources, argues Middle East Youth Initiative Director Navtej Dhillon. A few excerpts:

    The recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen comes at a time when the country is simultaneously confronting two major deficits: its human capital is vastly underdeveloped and its natural resources are depleting.

    Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East region and one of the poorest in the world. Over 75 percent of its population is under the age of 25. Yemen’s population will triple by 2050, and its youth population will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

    Yemen has a large deficit in human development. Education access and quality is limited, school enrollment is low, retention is poor and illiteracy is widespread. While these challenges are prevalent across the country, they disproportionately affect young women, the poor and rural residents.

    The youth are coming of age at a time when the country’s limited natural resources are under a great deal of pressure. Water resources are being depleted more quickly than they can be replenished, and the oil reserves that have provided a major source of income in recent years are veering close to exhaustion. The limited arable land must be used to productively employ and support a growing rural population, while efforts are made to diversify and support other developing sectors of the economy.

    These twin deficits underlie the importance of greater development aid to Yemen. Over the last four years, with some international assistance, the Yemeni government developed an ambitious youth strategy to improve education, health and employment outcomes for its young citizens. However limited foreign aid and weak institutional capacity has kept the strategy from turning its vision into reality. In 2007, the United States spent $10 million in non-military development aid in Yemen and was set to spend less than that in the 2008 fiscal year. Marking a step in the right direction, the U.S. government recently signed a $3 million agreement to assist young people by focusing on skills development and work opportunities. If Yemen is to prosper and contribute to regional stability, the international community must do its part in promoting the country’s economic development.

    Re-published with permission by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings. Visit the original article.

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