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What did London do?

Mar 04,2019 - Last updated at Mar 04,2019

Most Jordanians are inquiring about the bottom line results of the “Jordan Growth and Opportunity: The London Initiative 2019”. They are harbouring suppressed hopes of a new fix to their economic predicament, while they reveal lip-smacking cynicism.

The final communiqué that was issued at the end of the one-day affair was ambiguous in its Arabic language version. Many idiomatic terms which prevail in the development dictionary were awkwardly translated. I will try to decipher the text and rephrase the main results.

Jordan received pledges of $2.5 billion from three countries, the UK, France and Japan, in small doses of unrequited payments and larger sums in soft, long-term loans. The amounts are meant to cover the financial requirements for badly-needed infrastructural projects.

In return, Jordan must follow policies which will enhance women’s participation in the labour force, strengthen the role of the private sector and follow refugee-inclusive policies.

In addition, Jordan should continue with the implementation of its International Monetary Fund-brokered adjustment programme, while working with the World Bank, Arab sovereign funds and international and regional funds to decrease poverty and unemployment rates.

The last point was the emphasis on the fact that there is no quick fix for the Jordanian economy. There will be a transition period of five years, during which the government goes through with its economic development programme in the education, health, tourism and other sectors with competitive edge. The Jordanian ICT sector, which provides 75 per cent of the total Arabic content, promises to be of great potential in Jordan. Such services would also be valuable to the restructuring efforts of neighbouring countries.

The rationale on which the support was extended to Jordan is based on one cardinal attribute, namely: resilience of Jordan in the face of wars, upheavals and terrorism. Jordan’s security is key to the future of the region and its impact extends to neighbouring countries. Such evaluation tallies with what the Hill, American Congress news digest, published in an article on Jordan, reverberating similar ideas.

Yet, the questions which were not raised in the final communiqué are no less important than the ones highlighted in it. Two of these unrevealed are:

First: What are the regional conditions which govern the success of this initiative and its economic and social objectives? Is a peace process between the Arabs and Israel expected to be kick-started and whose success depends on Jordan’s involvement?

Second: How is Jordan going to deal with the refugees currently residing in Jordan? Is it correct to assume that the 3.5 million, including Palestinians registered with UNRWA, are here to stay permanently? If so, how is Jordan going to adapt to this change in demography in political, economic and social terms? If an investment drive takes place in the forthcoming World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, the London initiative would be a real success.

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