LOCAL ECONOMIC COUNCILS: A TOOL TO IMPROVE BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY IN YEMEN
Even before the events of 2014 and 2015 that led Yemen into the ongoing civil war, its economy was fragile. The years of hardship that have haunted the country is now rated as one of the hardest places in the world for businesses to operate and is last or near last in a host of global business competitiveness indexes. On a national level, stressors have included the interruption of oil and gas exports, suspension of donor development support and drop in remittances. In addition, there has been a bifurcation of monetary policy and financial regulation between rival central banks, a general shortage of foreign currency in the market to finance imports, a major depreciation in domestic currency value that has eroded local purchasing power, and widespread loss of livelihoods and income. Damage to vital infrastructure has also been widespread and public finances are in disarray. The devastating results of this economic collapse cannot be overstated. Poverty and hunger are rife. According to UNICEF, “Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people – some 80 per cent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.”
The Development Champions (DCs) are senior Yemeni experts and professionals from various backgrounds, with established expertise in development and economy. The seventh Development Champions Forum (DCF7), held virtually on January 25-27, 2021, discussed how within this clearly dire national situation, businesses still operating in Yemen today face considerable local-level challenges. The forum considered challenges both unique to, and shared by, the country’s various governorates, regarding areas such as vital infrastructure. Roads, power, fuel supplies, water, and access to communications across the country are often either below standard or not functioning at all. Issues raised also included: a lack of skilled workforces and training opportunities; governorates’ lack of decision-making powers required to react to their specific circumstances; inadequate oversight of funds available to invest in local economies; and scarcity of microfinance opportunities.