Jordan’s private sector strategy faces criticism

Published March 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Despite ongoing praise by organizers and speakers at the Jordan Vision 2020 conference, many in attendance were less than enthusiastic of the direction taken by the private sector business initiative in the past 12 months.  

 

Officially launched in June last year, the ambitious private sector strategy seeks to double the per capita income for the coming two decades and has helped identify the economy's weaknesses and strengths.  

 

But with strong challenges brought to the country by regional instability and a public debt that is higher than the GDP, much needs to be done to jump-start badly-needed economic growth. Against this backdrop, organizers reconvened on Tuesday, February 27, to evaluate progress to date, plan for the future and strategize their next move.  

 

“The challenges we face require we get rid of the concept of private and public sectors as two parts,” said Mohammad Halaiqa, deputy prime minister and minister of economic affairs, during his opening remarks. “Government is not always helping the private sector and there is a big difference in the thinking of the two,” he added, while noting the private sector always outlives government.  

 

While evenhanded in his comments towards the 2020 conference, the minister also addressed critics of government projects designed to draw investment. “There are negative perceptions of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone,” he told participants, “but Jordan is distinguished in managing crises.”  

 

Halaiqa said government continues to face problems with bureaucracy and adopting administrative reforms was a difficult task. He also added that Jordan is challenged by unemployment, especially as the educational system does not produce graduates that meet market demands.  

 

Following the minister's address, a series of presentations outlining accomplishments by the Jordan Investment Board, the Young Entrepreneurs Association, the National Competitiveness Unit took positive stands on the work done to date and looked to the future with determined optimism.  

 

However, many onlookers voiced concerns from the floor. “The objectives of this vision are ambitious but not realistic and the government is moving in a different direction,” said Monther Al-Mafalha, assistant director of the computer center at the University of Jordan, referring to a growing rift between public and private sectors.  

 

“This is an effort to revitalize the drive by the Young Entrepreneurs Association,” said one observer who wished to remain anonymous, adding, “events have overtaken the program and it has been slow to react.”  

 

While there have been tangible results to be seen in the form of increased foreign investment and government reform, others pointed to the lack of cohesion within the program and the fact that public interest has not been generated.  

 

“There is no outreach to the public, and there are lots of statistics, but no simple message for ordinary families,” continued the critic. “What does this mean to them?”  

 

The conference brought together 200 participants and keynote speakers who reviewed last year's economic performance, status of direct foreign investments and other measures adopted towards achieving economic growth.  

 

The strategy aims to develop dynamic leadership, establish an effective public-private partnership, instill international competitiveness, ensure access to markets, modernize the business environment, create a world class infrastructure and cultivate skilled human resources. — ( Jordan Times )  

 

By Suha Ma'ayeh and Owen Clegg

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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