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Beefing up gov’t economic team good move if sound plans in place — sector leaders

By Dana Al Emam - Oct 01,2016 - Last updated at Oct 01,2016

AMMAN — The introduction of two new economic portfolios in the new government could help focus efforts to address economic challenges, if backed by a clear and applicable plan, according to economists and experts.

Speaking to The Jordan Times in phone interviews on Thursday, sector insiders agreed on the need for the newly appointed ministers of state for investment and for economic affairs to work in harmony with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply, as well as other concerned entities.   

Economist Wajdi Makhamreh said the government's economic team has to deal with "pressing" issues, including the investment fund — where Saudi Arabia is expected to be a major investor — attracting new investments, especially to governorates outside the capital, addressing the needs of refugees and solving stock market issues.

If its duties were well distributed and authorities were clearly marked, the new economic team could succeed in its mission, he said, highlighting the need for jurisdiction demarcation to prevent clashes over power among the team.

"Multiple portfolios for the same sector could cause conflict," he noted.

Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI) Director Maher Mahrouq commended the move, adding that it could be a step towards creating an investment ministry, as the investment sector is "very vital and should be boosted to play its role proper".

"Efficiency relies on whether the government has a clear vision and a plan for the work ahead. Otherwise, the new portfolios will only be a distraction," he told The Jordan Times.

Mahrouq, who is also the director general of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, noted that the sector's priorities include enhancing investment opportunities, increasing exports, opening new markets and developing the business environment.

On the other hand, the government seems more concerned about the International Monetary Fund and reducing taxations, which in fact boosts consumerism and weakens exports on the long run, he noted, calling on the new ministerial team to maintain open channels with the private sector.

For his part, Ghassan Khirfan, first vice president of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, sees that the new portfolios might confuse roles and powers.

Decision makers and the government's economic consultants should work more at the grassroots level in order to set policies and regulations that can make a difference on the ground, such as providing genuine support for small and medium-sized enterprises, he said.

While some experts see that assigning a minister of state for investment marginalises the role of the Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), the commission sees the opposite. 

Mukhallad Omari, the JIC’s secretary general, said that assigning the investment portfolio to the deputy prime minister for economic affairs brings further attention to the investment sector and the JIC, which has now stronger and easier access to the Cabinet.  

He added that the multiplicity of institutions working under the commission’s umbrella and the several duties it shoulders necessitate such a position, citing the move as part of the government’s vision to improve economic conditions through encouraging investments.

 

Omari added that the Ministry of State for Economic Affairs will provide a platform for investors to discuss their issues, and to have their complaints directly reported to the Cabinet’s committees and be more efficiently addressed.

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