King Abdullah announces unprecedented development vision for Jordan's governorates
His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday stressed the importance of conducting a thorough and speedy review of governorates’ development plans to boost comprehensive and sustainable development, distribute its revenues in a just manner and provide job opportunities for citizens.
Chairing a meeting to become acquainted with government efforts to implement the Governorates Development Fund initiative, which was attended by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and several concerned ministers and officials, the King said boosting social equality and the just distribution of development gains among the governorates “represent one of the pillars of our drive towards comprehensive reform”, according to a Royal Court statement.
The King directed the government to prepare a work plan on governorates’ development, in partnership with civic community institutions, the private sector and development specialists, and in a manner that conforms to the competitive advantages of each governorate. The King also requested the government to have the action plan listed in the state budget for the coming three years.
The Monarch stressed the need to build on previous achievements and the importance of benefiting from previous development initiatives to guarantee the best results and improve the living standard of citizens, emphasising that the main goal of the initiative is to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and achieving local development in the various sectors.
The King stressed the importance of benefiting from the grants extended to the Kingdom, through expediting the implementation of capital projects which represent one of the development priorities, and improving the infrastructure in all governorates, which will help stimulate the national economy and provide new job opportunities.
Projects implemented by the fund should be linked to poverty pockets, the King told the meeting’s attendees, stressing the importance of SMEs and agricultural projects in establishing industries where agricultural products constitute the main production input.
In the case of establishing industrial estates, the Monarch called for developing and adopting a strategy to determine the industrial requirements of these estates and link them to the needs of countries which are interested in investing in the Kingdom.
At the meeting, Ensour highlighted the challenges facing governorate development plans, mainly poor industrial infrastructure in several governorates, pointing out that the Cabinet has recently endorsed the establishment of at least one industrial estate in each governorate.
As part of these plans, the first industrial estate and free zone will be established in Jerash, on an area of 800 dunums, to provide services to local and foreign investors, he pointed out.
The government is aware of the problem of lack of sufficient funding for investment projects, Ensour said, adding that there is a plan to establish a financing institution for industrial projects at low interest rates to compensate for the Industrial Development Bank, which was dissolved a few years ago.
The institution will operate in a manner that does not affect the banks operating in the Kingdom, Ensour added.
Moreover, the premier confirmed that the action plan the government will endorse should be listed within the State Budget Law for the years 2014-2016.
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ibrahim Saif briefed the Monarch on the development programmes the government will implement between 2014-2016 which, he said, will be enacted in a manner that ensures public participation in development-related decisions and guarantees dealing with development discrepancies among the governorates.
A team comprising 23 members, including ministries’ secretaries general and directors of government institutions is overseeing the preparation of these programmes to guarantee conformity among them, Saif told the King.
The programmes are to be prepared by local work teams, chaired by governors, members of consultative, executive and municipal councils, civic society and private sector institutions, and a broad bracket of citizens and representatives of local communities from the various governorates.
After the government accredits these programmes, a broad national meeting will be held, with the participation of representatives of concerned parties and entities to launch an action plan at the national level, the minister noted.
In his presentation, Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Yarub Qudah said that since the project was launched earlier this year, a total of JD25 million from the fund has been disbursed to finance 225 industrial and service projects, capitalised at JD57 million, adding that these projects have created 1,600 jobs.
Another 150 projects are listed to be financed by the fund until the end of this year, Qudah said.
Citing challenges facing the fund, he stressed the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors in their efforts to overcome these challenges.
“Industrial estates will be built in Tafileh, Ajloun and Jerash, since these governorates are a priority because of the high rate of poverty and in light of their geographical location,” Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Hatem Halawani said at the meeting.
The government has started investing a Gulf Cooperation Council’s grant in productive projects, he said, citing the national fibre optic network.
The total grant decided in 2011 is $5 billion over five years. Part of the funding has been received to finance development projects that should be approved by the concerned donor.
Jawad Anani, president of the Economic and Social Council, said the council conducted studies which confirmed that there is a rise in the unemployment rate among the young people, despite the presence of development capabilities in each governorate, emanating from their local resources.
Anani cited several pilot projects related to local resources in each governorate which help provide jobs for their respective citizens.
To support development projects, the governorates fund provides beneficiaries with eight-year interest-free loans, with a two-year grace period. Loans represent 45 to 70 per cent of the approved project’s total value, and no real estate collateral is required.
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