Yemen is about to be gifted with 3.25 billion dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia, according to Al Jazeera. With about 24 million people in Yemen, this is quite a hefty donation. Other donors will kick in to round it up at 4 billion. So the question now is who will benefit from all this money and how will such a vast amount actually be channeled into the public sector. There is no question that Yemen faces a severe humanitarian crisis with rising levels of malnutrition and health problems due to the insecurity and economic quagmire following the dictatorial rape of Yemen’s wealth by the late President Ali Abdullah Salih and his cronies. If the money is really funneled into health, education and needed infrastructure, this will be a valuable boost to getting the country back on track. But it is a big “if” given the continuing unrest throughout the country, the violence of Ansar al-Sharia in the south and the lack of a viable governmental civil service. How much of this aid will continue to end up in the pockets of officials, since corruption became endemic during the Salih regime?

And what are the strings to such a vast amount? Yemen has a diverse religious history with both Zaydi and Shafi’i followers who have lived in relative peace, separated by politics rather than doctrinal fighting, for centuries. But the influx of conservative Wahhabi cum Salafi views with Saudi financial backing threatens to create greater tension over religious affiliation. Do the Saudis simply want to extend their royal influence to the south or are the leaders genuinely concerned about the plight of Yemen’s population?

There is an old phrase in American English: “Don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you.” This is good advice as long as the hand is only feeding you and not at the same time grabbing you by the neck and forcing you to be something else than you want to be. It remains to be seen how the aid money will be spent, but Yemen is clearly the beneficiary of largesse that other struggling countries in the region have not received; Sudan and Somalia, for example.

But, as another American saying goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” even if it has a Saudi brand.