Mohammad Al Momani, Minister of State for Media Affairs, speaks to United World about Jordan’s stability, democratic reform and relations with the US.Jordan has been able to maintain itself as a haven for stability and prosperity in a region in chronic sociopolitical turmoil. The Jordanian economy is recovering well since the crisis of 2008 with an estimated average growth of 4% in the coming years. Please give an overview of the reasons behind the neutrality of Jordan and the effects its policies have had on the economic development of the country.
Jordan’s success story can be attributed to several factors; first is the vision and the leadership of his Majesty the King that solidifies a Jordanian model that can be characterized as moderate, progressive, and ambitious; the vision of leadership that helped Jordan to be in a place that is admired by the international community. Second, is the fact that we have professional institutions that function properly and effectively; third, is the professionalism and capability of our military institutions because one of the biggest challenges in the region is the security challenge. The professionalism of our security institutions as well as the military institutions has put Jordan in a place that makes it immune to the threat that continues to pass through the region. Lastly is the awareness of the Jordanian society; the citizens are highly educated and aware of the priorities and the needs of the country; we need to establish, and safeguard the Jordanian model.His Majesty has a clear vision for the development of the Kingdom of Jordan – one of them being implementing a transparent democracy within the government. It is the first time that this Prime Minister under the new law is not named by the King directly, but it is named by the Parliament. What are the efforts being implemented to reach a transparent government?
As you mentioned the Jordanian democratic model is in transition and we are taking significant steps, these steps have acquired enough credibility and became accepted by the majority of the Jordanian society. The Jordanian reform model depends on being gradual, and credible; we amended almost one third of our constitution to empower democracy, and to get us closer to an advanced status of democracy. According to the constitution the King is empowered to select the Prime Minister, but, the King willingly gave this right to the Parliament; Jordan is becoming an advanced democracy through establishing and solidifying a parliamentarian government in which the government will be a direct output of the House of Representative. Historically we have maintained a level of respect to democracy and humans rights; the majority of Jordanian political forces and the citizens are accepting this in the sense that they do believe that their country is going in the right direction when it comes to political reform. Continuing to build a gradual, credible political reform model is the true essence of the Jordanian state; this helps the country to stay immune from regional conflict and turmoil.2014 has been a big year for Jordan in terms of international presence as it has been elected alongside Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria as a chairing country in the United Nations Security Council. How would you assess the importance of Jordan’s presence in such a vital framework for global security and which are the reasons behind its election?
It means that countries respect Jordan because we have been voted in with a very high percentage to be part of the Security Council; it makes us very happy to shoulder and to be a part of this very important international organization. Through our presence in the Security Council we have been engaging with various problems around the world by sharing our vision and our thinking with all the partners. This position also brings responsibility upon the shoulders of Jordan; we have been very active in order to engage with the different international challenges. In the Security Council we are probably the best in order to reflect the different grievances in the region, and the challenges of security and peace.During a meeting with Economic and Social Council (ESC) board members, the PM said the 10-year economic blueprint, which His Majesty King Abdullah directed the government to draw up earlier this year, will be "flexible" and "open" enough to cope with all scenarios taking into consideration the region's “never-stable conditions”. How will the government assess the effectiveness of the 10 year plan and which areas are going to receive a wider attention?
It is where we would like to be as a state ten years from now, the mechanisms and the methods through which we will get there will be realistic; we will put indicators to the best of our efforts, and we will try to put targets that we can meet. Our goal is to reduce unemployment rates, reduce the poverty level, and increase FDI; economic and social indicators will show how we can actually achieve these targets. This month there will be the first national conference that will discuss this sort of issues in order to build some sort of public awareness and social consensus. The Jordanian society and the state needs to start a healthy discussion to understand where the economy is heading, we cannot continue subsidizing goods and services. To reach a level of supply and demand, an open market economy, we need to understand that the size of the public sector at some point needs to be reduced.What are your insights on the current fiscal reform program implemented under the auspices of the IMF and the World Bank and how will the privatization of State Owned Enterprises reshape the influx of foreign direct investment?
I would let the economic team speak about that. What I can tell you as a government policy is that we are trying to be as disciplined as possible when it comes to expenses and increasing revenues; we are trying a much as possible to get the economy transitioned from supporting the goods and services into supporting the citizens of Jordan who are in need of that support. The country is trying to get into a fully open market economy, we understand that privatization is something that is essential to an open market economy; we are reviewing the cases that we privatize in order to learn from the mistakes that took place, and to better our performance in the future. You mentioned before Jordan is characterized by its knowledge-based society, not having or hardly having any natural resources like neighbouring countries; the young population is emphasizing their need to develop a highly skilled workforce in many areas, ICT being lately named as the main drive of growth for the economy. What are the actual policies the government is implementing for this social development?
Education is one of the most important elements to the success of this country, we have been investing very many of resources on a good education platform for our citizens; providing quality education through public education and private education. The majority of Jordanians have access to free education, and this resulted with the country having a highly educated population; Jordan’s workforce is demanded in the gulf countries as well as in other countries because of their professionalism and the level of education that the workforce acquires. Education continues to be one of the most important assets of the country, and we are willing to allocate enough resources in order to invest in the education of our people.United States and Jordan have been strategic allies for the past 65 years where the cooperation has been extremely extend, the USA being a major financial support to Jordan. The United States sees Jordan as a fundamental partner in the Middle East and a long lasting friend. Jordan’s main trading partner is the USA and the relation between President Barack Obama and His Majesty King Abdullah at are an all time high. Please expand on the bilateral relations.
The US is very important for Jordan. I think that the two countries have a very high level of mutual respect and I think we are closer than ever to create a status of strategic interdependence at all levels; we highly value the support that that Jordan gets from the US such as the communicates, as well as the military aid. US officials keep telling us the value that Jordan means and provides to their country; the relationship we have is very important and bright. I can tell you so many examples of successful cooperation procedures that took place between us; the deployment of the Patrick missiles and the m16s, keeping on Jordanian soil in order to solidify the deterrence capability of Jordan, and the free trade agreement between us which helped the Jordanian economy tremendously. Jordan was able to save hundreds of millions of dollars because we were able to borrow money with low interest from the US. Sometimes we disagree with the issue of the Israeli conflict because we always wanted more engagement from the international community, and the US in order to solve this issue; we continue to believe that it is the core problem of the region, and this is an important issue that needs to be solved to ease much of the tension in the Middle East.You have taught American Government affairs at the University of North Texas (1999-2002), and then joined Rice University faculty where you taught Political Economy, Comparative Politics, Democracy and Democratization and Middle East Politics. It is no secret to anyone the fact that you are an expert in American Foreign Affairs and a true advocate of international issues regarding Jordan. How would you like to see your nation portrayed within this editorial feature and what is the message you prioritize towards the American audience of USA Today?
This is a country that is full of ambition, was able to build a successful model when it comes to reform, and has been nurturing and solidifying social and political values of high respect. I would like the US society and the international community to see the ability of this country to maintain its security and stability, and to build a moderate and progressive reform model despite all the challenges in the Middle East; we are courageous in speaking out the true values of the Middle East, the Islam religion, and the Arab world. I would like the American public to understand how much we appreciate the relationship, communication, and partnership that we have been developing between us and their country. The most meaningful way to establish and to be able to solve the challenges of the Middle East is through cooperating with a country like Jordan.