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Developing Jordan

Mar 18,2013 - Last updated at Mar 18,2013

Until the recent past, Jordan used to boast that it was more developed than rich. Hence, one should not take lightly the fact that Jordan’s ranking in the Human Development Index (HDI) has been slipping consistently in the last 12 years. And, should one start to cast blame, expatriate development professionals should not be excluded.

Jordan is ranked 100 among 186 nations in the Human Development Report. Its score, measured by the HDI, has been consistent, however its ranking slipped by seven places since 2007, which means that while other countries have been improving in terms of education, health and income per capita, Jordan has not.

Furthermore, growth in the index has been slowing down since 2000, and the ranking has drastically dropped during 2000-2012.

The result should not be surprising as Jordan has been shifting government spending, as a percentage of GDP, from development to security. Furthermore, economic policies have increasingly favoured the rich, thus harming development.

Lacking a national vision and a pro-poor orientation in the design and implementation of policies, development had to regress.

The plight of the Jordanian public sector and governance system is now well documented, so I will not delve into the domestic deficits. However, development professionals working in Jordan must share some of the blame; after all, they are Jordan’s development partners, and the government had transferred almost all development spending to the development bodies and organisations and, of course, their staff.

Typically, one would think that development professionals are the crème de la crème, or at least experts in their fields. Not true! So if not experts, one would assume they are knowledgeable; not true either. Most are bureaucrats whose own bureaucracies are less efficient than Jordan’s. Many are learning on the job, and at a very slow pace, too, and unfortunately, they direct development in Jordan through their control of the funds.

This is not true for all, though. Some are amazingly sincere, smart, knowledgeable and have Jordan’s best interest at heart. There are some ambassadors one wishes would never leave. Those who have helped this country deserve to be thanked, but those for whom Jordan is another job should find some other place to go.

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