After a tumultuous year for investments in Yemen, a number of new investment projects are currently under way.
In the first quarter of 2012, 17 investment projects at a combined value of 46.7 billion riyals ($216 million) were launched, creating nearly 1,000 jobs, Anis Awad Bahartha, acting president of Yemen's General Investment Authority (GIA), told Al-Shorfa.
Bahartha said the authority is undertaking intensive efforts to stimulate investment in Yemen, since it drives development and helps fights poverty and unemployment.
Al-Shorfa sat down with Bahartha at his office in Sanaa to discuss Yemen's investment climate following the recent Friends of Yemen donor conference.
Al-Shorfa: What is your assessment of Yemen's investment environment after 2011?
Anis Awad Bahartha: The investment environment was hurt significantly by the exceptional events that swept the country during the past two years because [of the country's] unstable political and security situation. This led to investment projects being halted in a number of provinces and much of the workforce being laid off, not to mention foreign investors' reluctance [to invest in Yemen] and a decline in investor confidence.
Since the signing the GCC initiative, however, the situation has begun improving gradually, and the government has focused its attention on investment issues. It has diligently created an appropriate environment for investment by moving forward with political, security and economic reforms and formulating many new laws to streamline the investment process.
Also, Yemen has membership in several regional and international institutions specialised in investment, including the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation, the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit, and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.
Al-Shorfa: What is GIA's vision in regard to reviving investment?
Bahartha: Strengthening political and security stability and creating job opportunities to lower poverty rates, which have risen above 50%, represent major challenges facing the government, and as everyone is undoubtedly aware, the current stage calls for concerted efforts to meet these challenges.
We at the GIA seek to refine the investment environment so it can be encouraging and stimulating [for investors]. We are pouring our efforts into achieving that through implementing an economic, financial and administrative reform programme adopted by the government and by completing a series of executive [branch] reforms and short-term procedures to contribute effectively towards improving the investment environment.
We also seek to implement the single-window system in the General Investment Authority, activate the role of commercial courts, and establish industrial zones. We want to allow the private sector to play a positive and active role in implementing infrastructure projects, production projects and service sector projects, and take other measures so Yemen can become an attractive environment for foreign and Arab investment.
The investment promotion plan will target a number of investors, including Yemeni expatriates, to entice them to invest in targeted economic sectors and thus improve Yemen's image abroad.
I call on investors, both in-country and abroad, to invest in Yemen and benefit from investment incentives and emerging opportunities the country is uniquely positioned to offer. I assure them Yemen is still well and possesses many competitive features and opportunities, making it attractive to various investment interests. The national reconciliation government is making intensive efforts to create a safe and stimulating investment environment.
Al-Shorfa: What are the implications of the [recent] Friends of Yemen conference on [Yemen's] investment environment?
Bahartha: The Friends of Yemen conference, attended by representatives of the governments of our fellow Arab countries, European countries, America and a number of donor [organisations], represented a turning point and a glimmer of hope for the national economy, which has experienced considerable stagnation for almost two years now. [Participants there] emphasised the importance of supporting Yemen on political, security and economic levels.
Partnerships between Yemen, its friends and other brotherly countries are crucial to lifting Yemen out of the devastating crisis ravaging its infrastructure and national economy. We are optimistic about the outcome of the conference based on our confidence in the Friends ' thorough understanding of the critical stage the country is going through and the fact they will spare no effort in providing generous support so Yemen can be delivered to safety.
Through my reading of the investment component of the phased stability and development programme for the upcoming two years [2012-2014], which was drafted by the national reconciliation government through the Ministry of Planning and International Co-operation, I found that the government and stakeholders evaluated the situation thoroughly. I am confident […] the implementation of the contents of this document will help bring about political and security stability. This will in turn enhance the prospect of the onset of economic stability and restoration of investor confidence.
The government has allocated over $10 billion in its programme to meet political, security, economic and humanitarian needs, including infrastructure projects Yemen presented at the donor conference. These projects encompass 89 investment projects involving work on electricity [networks], roads, port revitalisation and the reconstruction of what was destroyed during the crisis, among other [needs].
Al-Shorfa: What about the new investment projects launched since the beginning of this year?
Bahartha: There were 17 investment projects registered with the General Investment Authority in the first quarter of this year, which cost 46.7 billion riyals ($216 million).
The projects have fixed assets totalling 4.8 billion riyals ($22.3 million) and will create 901 jobs.
The service sector dominates the list of registered projects, with capital investment totalling 45.3 billion riyals ($210 million), including the Jinan Aden [Aden Garden] project which cost 42.7 billion riyals ($198 million).
The industrial sector ranks second on the list, with capital investment totalling 1.2 billion riyals ($5.6 million). Projects include building material-manufacturing plants. The agricultural sector came in third place, with capital investment totalling 91.7 million riyals ($425,000) in two investment projects involving botanical and livestock production farms in Hadramawt province.