Private sector the key to Jordan's economic future - King
His Majesty King Abdullah on Saturday voiced hope that the private sector will play a major role in enacting the desired future of the country, as depicted in his third discussion paper.
Addressing the second Jordan-US Business Forum, the King specified the water and energy sectors in particular as having potential for partnerships and investment companies, and said that investors based in Jordan enjoy access to regional and global opportunities.
“Jordan’s geostrategic position and positive country-to-country relationships are a proven gateway to access the MENA region’s business opportunities. Companies located here have exceptional access to new and expanding markets — with 350 million consumers and vital strategic resources,” said the King in a speech at the event, which attracted representatives of more than 100 US companies.
Beyond the region, Jordan has significant free trade agreements allowing access to major economies, said the Monarch.
“These open markets target over a billion global consumers. We are supporting initiatives in this area with development and enterprise zones, along with transportation and communication infrastructure,” said the King.
“Here again, trade and investment opportunities are rich, and deserve your attention. Opportunities are also ripe in professional services and engineering, agro-industries, tourism, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, education, transport and logistics.” The Monarch, who said the forum recognises the unique ties between the two countries, added: “Jordan and the United States have stood together over decades — for peace, for development, for global stability.”
“Our economies are vastly different in size and scope, but the essentials are similar. In both, people are calling out for jobs and economic security; in both, inclusive economic growth is urgent after the global downturn,” His Majesty added.
In his address, King Abdullah voiced pride in Jordan’s peaceful model of democratic evolution, saying: “It’s the Jordan way, aimed at ensuring transparency and good governance, along with our pluralism, openness, tolerance and moderation.”
“Our model aims to maintain a level playing field, safeguards for civil liberties and political rights, and measures to reinforce the separation of powers and encourage political participation. In this ‘Jordanian Summer’, we are developing the proper building blocks of democratic transformation and its checks-and-balances,” said King Abdullah.
The King added that he was looking forward to welcoming US President Barack Obama to Jordan soon. “I hope to see real momentum in the peace process after his visit, a strategic national interest for both our countries,” he said.
King Abdullah, who said he was concerned about creating jobs for young Jordanians, added: “We in Jordan recognise and respect the central role of the private sector and global partners in meeting these challenges. Your work is essential to create inclusive economic growth.”
Jordan began structural reforms more than a decade ago, aiming to integrate into the global economy and support economic opportunities. Steps included national investments in training and infrastructure, growth-friendly laws and policies, new development initiatives, heightened protection for companies, both foreign and local, said His Majesty.
“Priority is now being given to an improved new generation of laws on investment and public-private partnerships,” he added.
Jordan is building for the long-term, said the King, adding that economic and political reform must go hand in hand.
“We viewed the Arab Spring as an opportunity to increase our momentum. More than one-third of Jordan’s Constitution was amended in 2011, we began putting new institutions and processes in place... and early this year Jordan held landmark parliamentary elections. A consultative process was launched to choose the next prime minister, and our first pilot parliamentary government will be in place soon,” he said at the forum.
In a speech at the forum, which witnessed the announcement of several deals and projects, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan stressed the importance of the forum, saying that it does not only emphasise the necessity of economic growth in gaining stability, but also the important opportunities for the private sector in a region under transformation.
The impact of the international financial crisis and various regional crises on the Kingdom’s economy over the past three years, and especially on our energy sector, whose cost to GDP increased 72 per cent in the last two years compared to the previous decade, have undermined this momentum in development, doubled the deficit and reduced growth levels to less than half their previous average, said the minister.
To address these challenges, Hassan said Jordan has started the process for establishing its first liquefied natural gas terminal in Aqaba Port, building the first oil pipeline from Iraq, to be followed by a gas pipeline.
“Our growth policy is underlined by an aggressive economic and fiscal reform programme for the next four years with the support of the IMF to reduce the budget deficit… bringing it eventually down to 3.5 per cent by 2015,” the minister added.
In his address, the minister said Jordan launched new venture capital funds and that the country is in the process of launching the first ICT start-up fund within weeks with support from the European Investment Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.
Reiterating USAID support to Jordan, Maura O’Neill, USAID chief innovation officer and senior counsellor, said the Kingdom plays a crucial role in the region and a strong and prosperous Jordan is key to a safe future for MENA.
She added that strong public and private partnerships are the cornerstone for national development, noting that USAID invests about 27 per cent of its aid to Jordan in private sector development.
The US official also underlined USAID readiness to help Jordan in implementing a draft public private partnerships law that is currently at Parliament, stressing the need for the endorsement of the law as soon as possible.
O’Neill added that Cisco partnered with Jordan to launch a project to train 5,000 women on skills and technical knowledge in the ICT sector.
Several issues were discussed during the forum, which attracted participants from more than 100 US companies and local firms.
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