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Integration of Syrian refugees in workforce ‘hinges on new investments’

By Khetam Malkawi - Dec 21,2015 - Last updated at Dec 21,2015

Planning and International Cooperation Minister Imad Fakhoury addresses a gathering where a World Bank-compiled report was launched in Amman on Sunday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — The integration of Syrian refugees in the Kingdom’s economy and allowing them to legally join the workforce will never be at the expense of Jordanians, a senior government official stressed on Monday.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said Jordan has been preoccupied with how to transform the challenge ensuing from the refugee crisis into an “opportunity”, ensuring, that employment chances for Jordanians would not be compromised.

Fakhoury was responding to a question by The Jordan Times on economic inclusion of the Syrian refugees during the launch of Jordan Economic Monitor developed by the World Bank.

He announced that the government is working on creating “limited” job opportunities for Syrians, but such a measure hinges on new incoming investments, explaining that the ratio of Syrians employed in these projects relies on the size of investment.

Fakhoury seized the opportunity to re-highlight Jordan’s  “holistic approach” to the refugee crisis, which he has for the past weeks presenting to its development partners… “partners who invest in Jordan and give us loans”. 

These include the G-7, the rest of the European countries, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The idea is to follow “an approach that gets us out of this crisis to reach a win-win situation that would help the Kingdom economically, create job opportunities and, at the same time, alleviate the refugee burden on the international community”.

Again, the minister stressed that adopting this approach should not be at the expense of supporting the Jordan Response Plan (JRP) that the government has drawn up to respond to the impact of the Syrian crisis.

The JRP 2016-2018 calls for collective action to better support Syrian refugees and Jordanian people, communities and institutions.

The total cost of response interventions in the JRP 2016-2018 is around $8 billion for three years, according to a website designated for the platform by the planning ministry.  

Fakhoury called for “a guarantee that the international community will support host communities affected by the crisis, in addition to providing Jordan with low-interest loans”.

He noted that the idea of this approach came up since a meeting for His Majesty King Abdullah II with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and president of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim in September.

Jordan hosts more than 1.4 million Syrians, with only some 600,000 of them registered as refugees. The funding received by the international community to support Jordan dealing with the impact of the crisis in 2015 did not exceed 37 per cent of the Kingdom’s needs, according to official figures.

Last week, Shanta Devarajan, chief economist at the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa region said the World Bank is working with the Jordanian and the UK governments to set up “enterprise zones” where both Jordanians and Syrian refugees are allowed to work.

If the plan works out, the World Bank hopes that the European Union will give incentives to enterprises to invest in these zones as products will be manufactured by refugees, said Devarajan.

The planned zones will receive international investments and provide job opportunities for both refugees, who are currently not allowed to work, and Jordanians to alleviate the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the country.

 

“We hope to have something running in the next six months,” as these zones will also enable Jordan to be a location for international chains, Devarajan added at a press conference in Washington, in which The Jordan Times participated by phone.

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