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Foreign investors interested in Jordan, but want more stable legislation — sector leaders

By Omar Obeidat - Jan 20,2016 - Last updated at Jan 20,2016

AMMAN – Despite regional turmoil, Jordan continues to be a point of attraction for foreign investors who view the country as an oasis of peace in a volatile region, according to private sector leaders.

Key private sector leaders interviewed by The Jordan Times on Tuesday said that in addition to the country’s security, sound policies and stability of legislation constitute main attractions to foreign investors, advising the authorities to take these two factors into consideration.

The leading representatives of the commercial and industrial sectors said that their continuous meetings with foreign businesspeople and representatives of trade missions from various countries over the past years reflect the high level of confidence in the Kingdom's stability and security despite regional turbulence.  

"We have never seen any kind of hesitation by foreign firms to come to Jordan because of troubles in the Middle East," said Nael Kabariti, president of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce (JCC). 

The concerns expressed by possible investors usually relate to volatility of business legislation as it hinders sound planning and affects profitability, Kabariti said.

"Investors are not like tourists. They know for a fact that Jordan is a stable and secure country," he said. 

Kabariti also cited bureaucracy and law enforcement as other issues the government has to address to attract more capital inflows. 

The JCC head said that business missions targeted several European countries in 2014 and 2015 such as Germany, Britain, Belgium and Austria, in addition to visits made to China and Gulf states, adding that potential investors there voiced interest in Jordan’s investment offering, particularly in the energy sector. 

President of the Amman Chamber of Commerce Issa Murad said foreign companies always consider “stable” Jordan as a gateway to regional markets, adding that tens of business delegations came to the Kingdom in the past two years searching for investment opportunities. 

Some business delegates inquired about stability of legislation in the country, said Murad, adding that the new Investment Law, approved last year, sends assurances to potential investors. 

Monetary stability and sound performance of the banking sector are an attraction for foreign firms, he said. 

Murad said although the regional situation did not form a major deterrence to foreign investors, it affected Jordan’s exports to key markets such as Iraq and Syria as well as to Eastern Europe. 

Musa Saket, board member of the Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI), said that foreign investors usually quote remarks made by His Majesty King Abdullah on the investment environment in Jordan and on economic and political reforms.

“The King’s meetings with foreign investors and his remarks on Jordan make our mission easier when we go outside to attract investments,” he said. 

However, Saket said a main grievance by some businesspeople who had been to Jordan remains the instability in economic and business laws.

Other issues Saket advised decision makers to address include access to finance and skilled labour. 

Deputy chairman of the JCI Fathi Jaghbeir also criticised instability in legislation by pointing to the income tax law the government is working amend.

 

Expensive energy, availability of trained labour and bureaucracy are major concerns for investors, Jaghbeir said, criticising the government for not setting up trade missions in the Kingdom’s embassies abroad to promote investments. 

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