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Concrete steps for economic development

Feb 18,2018 - Last updated at Feb 18,2018

Recent weeks have seen growing numbers of protesters returning to the streets of Jordan. While the main message of the protesters is about economic hardships, we must also see the broader picture. Historically, specific political demands tend not to be able to build consensus to attract the numbers of protesters required to put serious pressure on governments.

In April 1989, the triggers for the revolution in the south, known as Habet Nisan, were purely economic issues. While the spark was economic, the solutions were predominately political. The protests led to meaningful change in Jordan, as marshal law was called off, elections were returned and large numbers of opposition groups were allowed to re-enter the political arena. Many amongst the political elite, who were accused of being responsible by the protesters, were removed from politics.

Given this history, it is essential to recognise that in Jordan, the current economic situation is getting worse; poverty is increasing and there are no serious policies or systems in place to work with people to participate in building their future in their cities and villages. This is particularly sad, because in the 1950s and 1960s Jordan had extremely effective programmes that focused on agricultural and industrial development.

Jordan needs a real change in its vision for economic development in order to develop policies that make an immediate impact on peoples’ lives. Strategies around agricultural cooperatives could be extremely powerful in reducing hunger and poverty levels. They do not  need to be complex, and can be modeled off the family farms in many European countries. These are easy to supervise and do not require large bureaucracies to administer.

Jordan must develop the supply chain between cities and regions to breathe new life into agriculture and food processing. We already have a history of producing yoghurt and cheese, as well as other food products in our cities. It also should not be limited to a single sector, but to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises across the country.

If we succeed in enhancing rural prosperity, then the results may open up markets for other industries and create a more balanced economy, which generates new jobs across sectors. The creation and support of local industries will also need Jordan to open foreign markets in the EU and the US for small producers in Jordanian cities.

Changing the economic situation, fighting poverty and working on an effective development plan should be at the top of the Jordanian political agenda. Otherwise, the difficult conditions could spiral to catastrophe. The economic protests that we are seeing require political change and effective decisions that lead to better outcomes and help Jordanians build a better future for themselves.


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