Sana, North Yemen
The average North Yemeni citizen is a back-mountain farmer who spends much of his day behind a camel or donkey pushing a simple wooden plow through rocky soil.Skip to next paragraph
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He most likely can't read or write, earns less than $800 a year, and couldn't care less that his war-ridden country is located at what Western political analysts call ''the strategic back door to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.''
Nonetheless, the perception that the regular tribal feuds and border skirmishes in North Yemen are crucial to the stability of the Arabian Peninsula has helped bring a flood of development funds into the country during the past five years. And that has contributed more to the development of roads, hospitals , and schools in cities, towns, and back-mountain regions than this country could ever afford on its own.
Now, with the Yemenis trying to pick themselves up from a Dec. 13 earthquake and subsequent tremors that reports say killed more than 3,000, left an estimated 400,000 homeless, and turned the economy upside down, North Yemen is more dependent than ever on outside sources of financial assistance. But even before the earthquake North Yemeni officials were becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to attract the foreign aid they need.
Ironically, Yemen has in the past five years benefited financially from its instability. But the country's existence on the brink of armed conflict has been a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it has helped make it imperative for the neighboring Saudis to invest in and contribute economic aid to the country to help counter the influence and subversion of Marxist-backed guerrillas. On the other, the constant threat of open warfare and the regular flare-ups of fighting between a variety of combatants throughout the country have discouraged private investment by Yemenis and others - and thus helped keep North Yemen backward, isolated, and heavily dependent on foreign sources of funds for economic development.
The current five-year development plan is based on the projection that officials will be able to attract enough grants and soft loans from foreign sources - particularly Saudi Arabia - to fund 48 percent of their $7 billion development plan.
Officials are seeing that goal grow increasingly elusive as the Gulf oil producers shift their attention and development funds toward the Gulf war and besieged Iraq. The Gulf producers also have rising financial commitments to Lebanon as well as to the scattered Palestine Liberation Organization. In addition, Arab economic aid, in general, may become increasingly scarce as oil revenues fall as a result of the prolonged glut of oil on the international oil market.
Some observers in Sana also fear that the Army's successful push against National Democratic Front guerrilla strongholds in the spring and summer of 1982 might make it less critical for the Saudis to maintain their estimated $400 million in annual aid to the North Yemen government.
''Development aid has not been officially reduced, but certain commitments have been delayed,'' says Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Iryani. He notes that, in particular, a $100 million annual appropriation pledged by the oil-producing states during the 1980 Arab economic summit in Amman, Jordan, had not yet been received.
''We made our plan at a time when we were more optimistic,'' the prime minister said.