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Economists discuss Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed economic strategy

By Dana Al Emam - Jul 22,2014 - Last updated at Jul 22,2014

AMMAN — Economists on Monday discussed the economic strategy proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), highlighting its points of strength and weakness.

Dubbed “Jordan Tomorrow 2020”, the blueprint seeks to build a “stable and balanced” economy that is capable of achieving sustainable development in all governorates, according to Sulaiman Shiyyab, head of the IAF’s economic team which prepared the plan.

“The plan suggests methods to boost the development of Jordan’s economy and its human and natural resources, in addition to a review of Jordan’s economic, commercial and investment policies,” Shiyyab said, adding that the plan focuses on the partnership between the private and public sectors.

The strategy, which took over two years of preparation, claims the ability to boost Jordan’s gross domestic product (GDP) while limiting reliance on foreign aid by the year 2020 if it is adopted by the government.

Speaking at the round- table discussion, organised by Al Quds Centre for Political Studies, Shiyyab said the strategy dealt with 30 sectors that contribute 1 per cent or more to the GDP, based on official data for the years 2000-2013. 

He noted that the strategy is “free of ideology”, which means that it is not affiliated with the IAF’s Islamist principles, in order to make it adoptable as a national strategy, adding that the front will take the opinions of the economists into consideration in reviewing the strategy.    

Economists Jawad Anani and Khalid Wazani, and Deputy Kheirallah Abu Saalik, who participated in the discussion, praised the IAF’s economic strategy as an initiative that aims to solve Jordan’s economic problems.

“The front’s economic initiative is a move from the comfort zone of criticising into taking the action of proposing a plan,” Anani, a senator and a former Royal Court chief, said.

However, economists agreed that the IAF should not “shy away” from adopting Islamic macroeconomic principles in the blueprint, since it is an Islamist party.

Anani said the 15 objectives of the strategy, some of which are inapplicable, should be redefined and narrowed down to five main applicable goals if not less.

The blueprint’s lack of visualisation for the cost of carrying it out makes it “more of a plan than a strategy”,  he added, advising the IAF’s economic team to follow a “synergetic approach” that focuses on the problems of the entire Kingdom rather than creating sector-oriented solutions.

The distribution of population in Jordan is a very dangerous issue that should be addressed, according to Anani, as resources are “dragged to people’s residence” instead of having people live next to the resources. 

“The plan should discuss unemployment among women… who occupy over half of university seats,” he said.

Abu Saalik, who is the head of the Lower House Investment Committee, criticised the proposal’s focus on the agricultural sector, which contributes around 6 per cent to the GDP, while ignoring other sectors like local industries, which contribute around 20 per cent to the GDP and employ around 24 per cent of Jordan’s work force.

“The party’s investment policy was not clear, although it adopted a good example on the partnership between the private and public sectors,” he said, describing the blueprint as “an important document that should be read and discussed”.

The MP suggested including other political parties and associations in the discussion of the strategy, stressing the importance of political reform in achieving economic reform.

He said the strategy’s employment of the SWOT analysis, which is a planning method that looks into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the idea under study, was “good but not enough”. 

Wazani agreed with Abu Saalik, adding that a country like Jordan cannot adopt an economic strategy like SWOT without looking into political and other factors.

“It is important to use the PESTEL analysis [which studies political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors], in conducting economic strategies,” he told an audience of representatives of political parties.

“The strategy lacks executive plans and does not provide policies that the front will adopt in case it is selected to form a Cabinet,” Wazani said, noting that the strategy should focus more on education and social empowerment.

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