Since King Abdullah’s ascension to the throne, he has implemented significant economic reforms to encourage foreign investment and to develop an outward, market-based and globally competitive economy
In a region rife with conflict and turmoil, Jordan’s stability and progressive domestic agenda has gained influence on the international stage, securing its role as a moderate voice in the Middle East and a valued ally to the West.
Policy analysts have described Jordan as an excellent friend to the United States, and the relationship has only grown stronger as events in the Middle East intensify. The two countries will mark 65 years of diplomatic relations this year, the alliance strengthened with a billion-dollar aid package and U.S. loan guarantees that will allow Jordan to access affordable financing from international capital markets.
“I think that the two countries have a very high level of mutual respect and I think we are closer than ever to creating a status of strategic interdependence at all levels,” says Dr. Mohammad Al Momani, Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs. “We highly value the support that Jordan gets from the United States, suchs as the military aid. U.S. officials keep telling us what Jordan means and the value it holds for their country.”
Jordan has recently stepped up its presence on the world stage. Its election to the UN Security Council, a post it will hold until December 2015, has allowed Jordan to wield its influence on matters of security and peace in the region and call for greater international support on issues like the rebuilding of Gaza and combating terrorism.
While the kingdom has made its presence felt in the international arena, it has also invigorated forces at home, embarking on an ambitious domestic program of economic and political reforms.
Jordan’s 2025 vision is a 10-year economic blueprint aimed at attracting more foreign investment while addressing some of the country’s pressing challenges, such as high unemployment, a widening trade deficit, and most notably its hosting of more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
Among the new initiatives designed to drum up more business include new tax incentives and legislation to encourage company start-ups, the privatization of state-owned companies, and government partnerships with the private sector.
Jordan’s reigning monarch is leading the effort to bring greater prosperity to the country’s citizens. King Abdullah II, a former helicopter pilot who served in the Jordanian military and rose through the ranks to become a major general, recently showed his flair for hands-on leadership when he donned a pilot’s uniform to inspire his troops.
“This is a country that is full of ambition – one that has been able to build a successful model when it comes to reform. It has been nurturing and solidifying social and political values of high respect,” says Dr. Al Momani. “We would like the U.S. 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.”
Jordan’s prime minister – the country’s legislative leader – is traditionally appointed by the King. However the incumbent Abdullah Ensour was elected for the first time by parliamentary members in 2013, reflecting a move toward a more advanced democracy. “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,” says Dr. Al Momani.
The country has also instituted reforms that have helped it to pull itself out of an economic crisis that saw double-digit inflation hammer consumers in 2008 and 2009. Efforts to transform the economy to a more market-based and globally competitive economy is setting the country on a path to stronger growth, with the World Bank predicting 3.4% growth predicted this year, up from 3% in 2013.
One of the areas the government will be looking to develop as part of its economic development plan is energy. Unlike its Arab neighbors, Jordan relies heavily on fuel imports and is exploring renewable resources to supplement its needs. Analysts suggest that sourcing from renewables such as solar and wind can potentially provide 60 times the country’s electricity consumption by 2050, adding up to billions in savings while providing thousands of jobs. The government has set a target of obtaining 10% of its energy requirements from renewable resources by 2020.
Tourism, trade, manufacturing, and technology are other sectors Jordan is looking to develop while supporting the backbone of its economy – small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). More than 99% of Jordanian companies are SMEs, which account for 40% of the country’s GDP and the hiring of 70% of the overall work force.
The country hopes to appeal to foreign investors by capitalizing on its values and geographical location. It has the potential to serve as a regional business hub offering the kind of stable and secure environment currently lacking in some parts of the Middle East.
Dr. Al Momani adds, “The most meaningful way to solve the challenges of the Middle East is through cooperating with a country like Jordan.”