PM envisages stronger IMF-backed economy with more foreign investment, tourism
Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb said on Tuesday he expected this year's economic growth to exceed the annual population growth of 2.8 percent amid signs of a turnaround in tourism and services in conjunction with more foreign investment.
“Our economy has started to grow within acceptable levels and this year, we expect that our economic growth will definitely exceed our annual population growth of 2.8 percent,” Abul Ragheb said at an informal meeting with the chief editors and columnists of the country's five dailies.
“And next year, we hope that the figure will increase by one percent (to reach 3.8 percent), especially if we get more rain this winter and are able to increase exports and lure more foreign investment,” he added.
The Kingdom has been registering an annual gross domestic product (GDP) rate of around 1.5 percent in the last few years. But accelerated IMF-backed reforms, more tourist arrivals and an increase in tourism-related investments, have helped boost growth this year.
Abul Ragheb said Jordan was determined to increase exports to neighboring countries like Syria and Iraq, and to the Palestinian self-ruled areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to ensure sustained economic growth.
“If we can increase our annual exports by around $150 million to $200 million, if we can increase the profits of companies, if we can transport more Iraqi-bound goods and improve the performance of the agricultural sector and the stock market, then this will reflect on us positively next year,” he added.
Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority recently expanded the list of Jordanian exports that can enter the lucrative PNA market and reactivated a door-to-door transport arrangement that is expected to prop up trade links, which last year stood at around $24 million.
Officials also expect Jordanian-Syrian ties to improve under the leadership of President Bashar Assad, who has developed good ties with His Majesty King Abdullah. The joint Jordanian-Syrian higher committee, in charge of bilateral cooperation, is to meet soon after the expected government reshuffle in Syria to chart future ties.
Abul Ragheb, who enjoys good working relations with Iraqi officials since his days as trade and oil minister, is expected to send a “high-level” delegation to Baghdad soon to discuss ways to improve political and economic ties.
But the premier, who also advocates better ties with Iraq, declined to disclose more details.
The once cozy ties between Amman and Baghdad are presently cordial but cool since Jordan gave shelter to top Iraqi defectors in 1995 and turned against the Iraqi regime. Despite the political chill, Iraq remains Jordan's largest trade partner and supplier of its full crude oil needs at concessionary terms.
Iraqi Ambassador to Jordan Sabah Yassin said in a local newspaper interview on Tuesday that the joint higher committee, chaired by the prime ministers of both countries, was expected to meet in Baghdad soon to boost trade and other links.
The announcement comes three weeks after Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan visited Jordan and reviewed bilateral ties with King Abdullah and other top officials.
The visit was the first by a high level Iraqi official to Jordan since King Abdullah assumed power in February 1999.
Officials said Iraq is preparing to switch some of its trade back through the Red Sea port of Aqaba — away from ports in the United Arab Emirates and on the Syrian coastline.
Bilateral levels of trade, which amounted to nearly $2 billion before the 1990 Gulf crisis, have been slashed by half.
Now, under the Jordanian-Iraqi oil deal and trade protocol for 2000, Jordan's exports will be worth no more than $300 million in exchange for over 4.8 million barrels of Iraqi oil.
Jordan receives half of the oil for free and the rest at preferential tariffs. – (Jordan Times)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)