Breaking Free!

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 17 June / Jun 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Government officials are aware of the complexity of the local situation.

Some even describe it as though Jordan has fallen under an undeclared siege.

Objectively speaking, this isn’t so far from the truth, given the surrounding situation.

There is tension all around Jordan. The borderline with Syria and Iraq is shut.

In Syria, particularly, the rivals have decided to hold their final face offs in the South Syrian border areas, leaving an open confrontation without end.

Even if the underway Safe-Zone proposition is realised in accordance to the Jordanian vision, which is a possibility, there is very little chance that peace in the North will be restored.

Similarly, all efforts so far to reopen the Trebil crossing with Iraq are futile, mostly, despite the abundance of official statements on its imminent reopening.

The closure will continue, for obvious security reasons, as some officials will say, or other reasons related to rearrangements in the bilateral Iraqi-Jordanian dynamics. Especially in light of recent transmutations in the Iraqi scene.

Both border are closed.

The only open gateways to Jordan, economically speaking, are the South Jordanian borders with Saudi Arabia and Aqaba.

Commercial activity through the Jordan-Saudi borders are at a normal pace. There are no significant dents in the overall of commercial transactions via land with Saudi.

Still, in light of decline in foreign grants and aid, Jordan seems to be economically and financially suffocating, under the weight of a shortcoming, reliant economy.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grant has been stopped.

Three of the four countries have paid their shares, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, with the exception of Qatar, who didn’t pay the USD1.2 billion as agreed upon.

In figures, the central government’s General Budget Law cited an estimate of JOD777 million in grants, for the year 2017, compared to JOD836 million, in 2016.

In total, the government expected a 7 per cent decrease in grants from the actual balance of grants achieved last year.

Meanwhile, foreign grants have dropped by 61 per cent during the first quarter of the year, Q1-2017, compared to the same period last year.

So far, grants to Jordan, as of the end of March, 2017, stand at JOD50 million, according to the Ministry of Finance’s bulletin, down from JOD130 million in Q1-2016.

Today, the United States of America happens to be Jordan’s biggest donor, financially and militarily, providing an annual grant of USD1.3 billion.

In the meantime, the economy is suffocating, as other sources of financial aid are drying up, making it harder for us to navigate the intensities of the next few years.

Under such a situation, there is very little at hand to help alleviate the weight of the economic crisis.

Notably, the situation is further complicated by receding expectations of economic growth.

The most optimistic outlooks estimate a 2.2 per cent growth rate for Jordan next few years, at least.

Automatically, this means that we will not be able to lower poverty rates nor create jobs to reduce the dangerously climbing rates of unemployment.

In short, we will not be able to improve the quality of life for our people, whose lives have been deteriorating year after another.

Likewise, this rate will not help shrink the current accounts deficit, which has increased in the last year to 9.3 per cent, compared to 9.1 per cent in 2015.

As the regional, Arab scene complicates, and crises intensify, last of which is the Gulf Crisis, what remains of hope for regional cooperation?

Especially in light of the ongoing shifts and realignments, which eventually only strains pan-Arab relations, instead of strengthening them.

Given the circumstance, everything at hand, it is safe to say that the conventional government ‘wisdom’ is all, maybe, but worthless.

Waiting for the geographical blockage to lift is no longer an option.

In fact, waiting, time, are luxuries we cannot afford.

It is likewise unaffordable to linger in wait for more foreign grants.

The time of aid is gone, and Jordan’s only option is investment.

That in mind, in order to reap the fruits of investment, we have to work long and hard to break all the obstacles which hinder business and investment.

New horizons must be pried open for our economy to break free of the shackles of this siege, instead of lying still, feeling the noose as it tightens around our necks.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.