By Fakhri al-Arashi
Every day in Yemen is harder than the day before. However, looking back over the past the two years in Yemen, many positive geopolitical matters have occurred. Yemen has accomplished the National Dialogue, moving forward to apply the outcomes and working on the constitutional amendments. “The action is very slow but it still moving safely,” stated Mr. Mihtsuhiro Imamura, the Economic and Commercial Attaché at the Japanese embassy told National Yemen.
“My country likes to support the developing democratic countries and Yemen in particular.” Leaving Yemen for new diplomatic mission in Oman, Imamura said “we like would to see Yemen escapes its current challenges.”
Japan focuses in supporting Yemen in the fields of economics, education, health, humanitarian issues, training, and politics. In 2011, the Embassy of Japan suspended its office operations in Yemen and resumed them in December 2012.
Over the past two years, the government of Japan contributed $85 million US for the transitional period, including the presidential election in 2012, the biometric voter registration equipment in 2013, the National Dialogue project, and the transitional justice project. “The embassy is still seeking the opportunity and possibility to support the constitutional amendments,” said Imamura.
The government of Japan will continue to support President Hadi, the transitional government, and the people of Yemen to maintain democracy and stability. “This is very important for Japan as a democratic country to keep supporting the democratic countries that share same values of freedom and democracy,” said Imamura.
Employment is very crucial in Yemen, with more than 50% youth unemployment. Due to this, the government of Japan contributed to the youth economic government project of last year in collaboration with UNDP. “This project was designed to assist youth in Yemen to overcome their self-finance problems and develop financial ideas and make business during their educational study, like how we do it in Japan,” said Imamura.
The youth of Yemen are acquiring the knowledge to generate sufficient income during their academic study. Out of this project, youth can have the opportunity to paint schools walls, collect garbage, fix water systems, and many more simple activities that can be achieved easily and much more importantly to save 60% of their income and use 40% of it in their daily life.
“The involved youth of this project received double payments to their saving from the United Nations, who inspects their bank accounts,” said Imamura. For this, they can get easy microfinance from accredited banks or the UNDP offices.
“The political crises pushed the government of Japan to implement its humanitarian, economic and political projects in Yemen through a third party,” said Imamura. Like other Arab, western and American embassies who use USAID, DFID, GIZ and so on, Japan used to have JICA doing humanitarian work on behalf of the government of Japan in Yemen before the 2011 crises. JICA may resumes its operation in Yemen, but not for the time being, because security in Yemen remains a high concerns of the government of Japan.
“The situation is very difficult and that is why we are using other international organizations,” said Imamura. To approach the community directly, Japan gives implements three to five scheme growth projects to fund local CSOs to cover the remote and the unrest areas in the country. “To ensure the accuracy of implementing its projects, Japan receives direct reports supported with documents,“ said Imamura. We are part of the international community of more than 200 countries who are members in the United Nations, that is why we use them. The Japanese contribution system is very unique; we transfer the technology from Japan to Yemen and we teach the Yemenis to use this technology as part of the techniques of the government of Japan.
“Training and Capacity building are very important for the Yemeni government,” said Imamura. We send more than 230 government employees for training every year to Japan using JICA. JICA trains other 50 government staff in Jordan, Tunisia, and other Arab countries.
The trade business between Yemen and Japan is not very active, and many business companies withdrew from Yemen in 2011.
“From an economic point of view Yemen is one of the most important countries in the world for its unique location pass in Bab al-Manadab.” Japan imports oil and coffee from Yemen while Japan exports cars and electronic machineries.
Imamura thinks that tourism in Yemen may generate a good source of income for the country. Sana’a and Socotra are the most favorite destinations for Japanese tourists. “During my mission in Yemen, I used to receive a good number of calls from the Japanese tourist companies asking for Socotra. Unfortunately the travel warning advice from Japan to Yemen is red,” said Imamura.
“The people of Yemen are still very kind and friendly and my successor Koichi Hatanaka is very positive about enhancing the economic roll of Japan with Yemen. If the situation improves we will do many things, tourism and economic, and we will encourage companies to come to Yemen,” he concluded.