Spurring economic growth is the private sector’s responsibility, and not the government’s, a World Bank official stressed on Tuesday. Inger Andersen, vice president of the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, told journalists at a roundtable that budget management and efficiency are important tasks the Jordanian government should endeavour to accomplish. She said the government should also “protect things that spur growth” such as the ease-to-do-business conditions and simplifying investments procedures. Andersen, a Danish national, said simplification and flexibility are key elements advocated by the World Bank for activating economies and generating investments.
The World Bank official declined comment on how to raise domestic revenues and beef up state coffers when asked if Jordan must continue to rely on Arab and foreign aid and if financial self-reliance is possible through a capital gain tax coupled with a higher tax on the wealthy as well as banks and insurance companies. “Reforming the tax system is a matter for national debate and not an issue for the World Bank,” she said. Underlining the importance of fiscal discipline, Andersen asserted that utmost attention should be given to handling the budget, revenues and expenditure while taking into consideration the decline in tourism income, foreign direct investment, disruption in gas supplies and high oil prices, among other factors. “There are many issues beyond government control and the Jordanian people must understand this,” she said, noting that the problems in the “neighbourhood” and the eurozone are exacerbating trade difficulties.
Andersen warned of social instability because of the thousands of young people who are seeking employment every year amid various other constraints that include the Kingdom’s high indebtedness and limited availability of projects. “Still, economic growth remains vital to avoid that,” she emphasised, commending Jordanians’ educational qualifications and the progress achieved to become a regional hub for information technology.
The World Bank official also praised Jordan’s stability and the reform drive, urging transparency as a support for all measures and steps to encourage public participation and involvement. Highlighting the importance of the social safety nets to protecting the poor, Andersen said state subsidies cannot be ignored, but need right channelling to reduce the cost to the state.