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Constructiveness in a fiasco

Sep 23,2018 - Last updated at Sep 23,2018

Despite the political fiasco we live in these days, the exit lights are illuminated. While waiting for polling data to gauge the level and intensity of dissatisfaction, one can sense that the avalanche of negativity we have seen over the past couple of weeks has coloured our national psyche with a sense of desperation, a feeling of indifference, apathy and hopelessness. Such sociopolitical installations are not new and can be overcome.

In the past few decades, even worse, Jordan has been written off a few times by its external enemies as well as its internal critics and it has witnessed darker moments and managed through by turning challenges to opportunities. Over the past 70 years, the country moved from one crisis to another stronger and with better knowledge on how to handle the next political or economic crisis, although not always successful, the accumulation of state building is remarkable in comparison to other countries in the region.

The evolution of state institutions varied significantly in terms of maturity, efficiency and outcome. Judging by results, not by processes, two sectors can be highlighted as producing positive outcome: Security and tourism. While Jordanians report high levels of satisfaction with safety in their neighbourhoods and the country at large, they are benefitting from the growth in the tourism sector as it drives economic growth and activates otherwise semi-idle sectors.

In 2017, the tourism sector contributed nearly $2 billion directly to GDP. This generated nearly $7.6 billion as a total contribution to GDP. Projecting for 2018, based on published data from the Ministry of Tourism, these numbers are expected to increase by around 10 per cent or more in 2018. Last year, the sector produced 15 per cent growth in the number of visitors and 18 per cent in revenue compared to 2016. The numbers reported until end of August 2018 project a very promising scenario for tourism growth. The sector’s leadership at the Tourism Ministry and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) aims to increase visitors from 4.2 million in 2017 to 7 million in 2020. For this to be achieved, we need to double hotel rooms from nearly 30,000 to 60,000. Currently, room shortage is reported in prime locations, such as Petra, and with new low-cost airlines flying in, the demand is going to increase significantly.

The ministry and JTB have been and can pull as much as their muscles can be flexed, but they need everyone else to roll up their sleeves and extend a hand, professionally. As a successful sector, all other sectors should prioritise easing tourism and respond to its priorities. While the marketing arm of the sector, the JTB, has produced exceptionally good results with meager resources, hats off, tourism growth needs cleaner places and roads, further investment in hospitality skills, tourism logistics and infrastructure.

This is the role of the private sector which should be encouraged, rather than hindered, to eradicate the 18 per cent unemployment, which is very threatening to the two successful sectors; security and tourism, especially in remote and underprivileged areas, where dissatisfaction with government and its services is at unprecedented high levels and propensity towards social unrest is dangerously high. Rationality of the sector’s leadership has produced macro and micro successes. More of that is always welcome to reduce societal fever until surgical interventions are made to fix the chronic economic ills.

 

The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions

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