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‘Jordan to follow up with int’l community on London pledges’

By JT - Feb 06,2016 - Last updated at Feb 06,2016

A Syrian refugee carries blankets and supplies at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, some 90km northeast of Amman, in January (Photo by Hassan Tamimi)

AMMAN — Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour is scheduled to hold a press conference on Sunday at the Royal Cultural Centre to explain the outcomes of the London donor conference to support Syrian refugees and host communities, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, said Saturday.

Under pledges made at last Thursday's conference, Jordan will receive $2.1 billion in additional grants over the next three years to help it cope with the consequences of the influx of Syrian refugees and create jobs in the country, according to a top government official.

The Kingdom will obtain an annual $700 million over three years as additional grants, of which a minimum of $1.5b will be allocated for investments in host communities, in line with the requirements of the Jordan Response Plan for 2016-2018, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said in a statement made available to The Jordan Times.

The minister said His Majesty King Abdullah, in his remarks at the London conference, explained that Jordan continues to shoulder substantial burdens and has reached its limits.

“His Majesty conveyed the voice of each man and woman in Jordan to the London conference on Syrian refugees. It should be clear that focus should also be given in parallel to hosting countries, governments and communities, especially the Jordanian people who have borne tremendous burdens over the past five years,” Fakhoury noted in the statement.

The international donor community conference in London pledged a record $10 billion, according to a statement on the UN website.

More than half of the pledged amount is earmarked to meet immediate needs in 2016 in a country where a nearly five-year-war has killed over 250,000 people, sent over 4 million fleeing Syria, displaced 6.5 million internally, and put 13.5 million people inside the country in urgent need of humanitarian aid, the UN statement said.

In Jordan, there are 1.3 million Syrians, according to the latest population census results announced by the Department of Statistics earlier this month.

Jordan’s proposal in London for the international community to provide support is part of a holistic approach to dealing with Syrian refugees, as the Kingdom recognises that the protracted Syrian crisis does not have quick solutions, Fakhoury said.

According to the minister, Jordan’s approach is based on three components, of which the first is to rebuild host communities and infrastructure in the fields of health, education, water and municipal services. 

“We asked the international community for [an] adequate funding of grants for this component in the Jordan Response Plan,” he said in the statement. 

The second component is providing Jordan with concessionary funding to help it bridge the funding gap that it is facing according to the recently adopted budget (2016-2018).

The third component, the minister said, would enable Jordan to attract new investments to the development zones, providing them with full support and benefits, while the EU will adopt simplified rules of origin. 

These moves, he stressed, would attract new investments that would enable Jordan to create new job opportunities for Jordanians, and — at the same time — reorganise the labour market which has been regressing in the past few years because of illegal and irregular Syrian labour.

Under the plan, irregular labourers would be legalised and organised more efficiently, and will be allowed to work in sectors that do not harm Jordanian job seekers. 

Therefore, Syrian labourers would substitute guest labourers in specific sectors at development zones.

 

EU rules of origin

 

Fakhoury added that the EU announced that in principle it would simplify the rules of origin. 

It said that in the next few months, it will start negotiations with Jordan over a transitional period of 10 years in which the rules of origin will be simplified to attract investments that can create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for Jordanians. 

Economic opportunities will also be allowed for guest workers in accordance with Jordanian laws, provided that Syrian refugees are employed in certain categories, according to Fakhoury.

The minister noted that the holistic approach will also enable Jordan to secure funding worth $1.9 billion for 2016, 2017 and 2018 through soft loans.

“This means $5.7 billion as concessionary funding for the period of 2016-2018 that offers soft loans instead of the costly borrowing. In addition to this, there are grants of $300 million over the next three years ... a total of $900 million,” he explained.

Jordan, according to the minister, seeks to safeguard Syria’s future generations to be able to go back home when political circumstances allow for rebuilding their country and ensuring its stability. 

This is done, he said, by expanding educational services afforded to refugees on condition that the international community cover the cost of their education, borne at the moment by the Jordanian government.

Fakhoury added that there is a commitment to provide some $1 billion in additional expenditures for providing education services to Syrians in Jordan, as a compensation for the Treasury. 

The minister expressed optimism over the outcomes of the London conference, describing it as a turning point that requires close follow-up.

Jordan’s commitments are linked to the international community fulfilling its obligations, he noted. 

“At the same time, we will work incessantly to attract new investments and follow up [on] the implementation of all mutual commitments between Jordan and the international community, which will bring benefits and added value to our economy and country,” Fakhoury said. 

 

Employing Syrians, he noted, will be a temporary measure that is annually renewed until the refugees are able to return home.

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