Yemen’s Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa began a tour to the country’s oil-rich Gulf neighbours on Monday to seek urgently needed aid for an economy approaching collapse.
Basindawa, formerly an opposition leader who is now leading a transitional government, heads in search of financial help while political tensions at home remain acute and protests continue against the deal that brought him to power.
The tour aims to raise “immediate support to face Yemen’s budget deficit,” and will see the prime minister visit, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar, Basindawa told Al-Arabiya news channel.
“We are counting on this tour, mainly on the visit to Saudi Arabia… especially since we have inherited an empty treasury,” he said.
Last month, UN agencies said nearly four million Yemenis will be affected by the country’s political and economic crisis in 2012, more than half of whom will suffer from acute food shortages.
Nearly a year of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime sparked a breakdown in public services and Yemen is also struggling to combat an insurgency by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in its restive south.
Basindawa became prime minister following a Gulf-sponsored deal that calls for Saleh to formally resign in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and his relatives.
Outrage over the immunity provision has fueled further protests, but the transitional government has said it will not try to adjust the terms of the deal.
Basindawa said that tension will not settle until Saleh formally quits power following elections called for February, when Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is due to take over.
“People will not feel that danger has gone before Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is officially elected as president on February 21,” Basindawa said.
And protests continued Monday, when hundreds of young people rallied in the capital’s Change Square to denounce Saleh’s immunity deal, which has been submitted by the transitional government to parliament for approval.
“The youths reject the government’s draft law and warn the parliament from ratifying it as it contradicts all international laws,” leading activist Walid al-Amari told AFP.
“If approved, we will begin demonstrations and sit-ins outside the parliament,” Amari threatened.