Demand for basic infrastructure and employment were very high in poor, remote areas of Yemen during the period 1985-95: the illiteracy rate was at 46 percent of the population while female illiteracy was at least 62%; unemployment was as high as 30 percent; health services covered only about 58 percent of the population; and only 11 percent of rural roads were paved. Scarcity of water was a burden on women and children especially girls who in order to collect a few liters per day have to walk for one hour and more in extremely difficult terrains. Implementation of the Economic Reform Program was expected to adversely affect the supply of basic services especially in rural areas and the challenge was to find instruments and approaches that would ease the burden of these reforms on the population especially the poor and the unemployed who are mostly located in remote, rural areas.
In order to maximize the poverty alleviation impact of the project and make more job opportunities available to targeted groups, the project was designed to implement small-scale, labor-intensive infrastructure sub-projects through local contractors. Targeting mechanisms were introduced to ensure the sub-projects reached those communities with the highest rates of poverty. The overall initiative also aimed to ensure the sustainability of completed works by drawing heavily upon community participation and contributions.
Results achieved so far include:
- Over 3,900 sub-projects, including 1,950 financed by IDA, were created in various sectors but mainly in education, health, water and sanitation, roads, agriculture, vocational training and social security. These activities are benefitting over 14.7 million poor people, of whom 80 percent are in rural areas. Altogether, the project managed to reach to about 68 percent of Yemen’s rural poor.
- More than 740,000 work/months of job opportunities have been directly and indirectly created.
- Almost 1,900 local contractors and 1,250 local consultants have been given new work and development opportunities.
In addition, the PWP contributed to various socio-economic impacts on the population in targeted areas:
- In the education sector, overall enrollment increased by 141 percent for males and 181 percent for females. The number of classrooms increased by 124 percent and classroom sizes decreased by 17 percent.
- In the health sector, immunization increased by 62 percent and childbirth under medical supervision reached 31 percent.
- In the water sector, there has been an about 29 percent increase in the number of houses supplied with clean water.
In 1996, an IDA Credit for US$25 million was used to establish the Public Works Project as Phase I. Due to the continued need for basic infrastructure services, especially in rural and remote Yemen, and in order to support the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and its successive Five Year Development Plans, IDA provided two additional credits for a total amount of US$124.8 million under two subsequent phases. In addition, the PWP is implementing on behalf of other line ministries infrastructure components under IDA credits. Total direct IDA financing of US$149.8 million contributes to about 27 percent of total project costs.
From the start, the project was designed to accommodate other potential donors and to establish the capacity to gradually increase its monthly disbursements from an original average of US$1.5 million to over US$6.0 million currently. IDA credits played a significant role in leveraging funds from numerous development partners, such as the governments of the Netherlands, the US, Italy, France, Oman, the European Union, the Arab fund for Economic Development, the OPEC Fund, the Saudi Fund, and the Government of Yemen. Partners’ contributions gradually increased from US$2 million during Phase I to US$66 million in Phase II to US$325 million in Phase III. Most development partners follow procedures that were established for IDA credits in all project implementation aspects, especially as regards procurement and implementation procedures.
The IDA Credit for Phase III, including the Additional Financing Credit, is approaching completion. An Additional Financing Grant is under preparation for Board presentation in fiscal year 2012. Most development partners are expected to continue their support to the project’s activities. Furthermore, the Government of Yemen is utilizing the Project Management Unit to implement several other activities it is currently financing. In order to capitalize on experience to date, and to ensure sustainability of the project, it is anticipated the project will be transformed into a fund.