The story is not told by the government

تم نشره في Tue 15 July / Jul 2014. 09:41 AM

By Jumana Ghuneimat

The government was bombarding us with statements on the burden of Syrian refugees and their considerable impact on the national economy, until every official who is there had talked about it and its consequences at least once.

The complaints continued, too, about the limited support Jordan is receiving in comparison to the costs of hosting the asylum seekers, as some government studies estimated that the support covered less than 50% of the real cost, which official statistics pinned to exceed three billion dollars annually.

In the meantime, the story of the growing numbers of refugees was daily monitored by the media. Some estimate the number of Syrians at about 1.4 million people.

Over the past three years, too, officials  continued to talk about the impact of refugees on the communities non-stop, especially regarding their competition with the Jordanians over jobs that the Syrians dominated because of their low wages, not to mention the decline in the level of healthcare and education services provided to the Jordanian due to the increase in demand; tens of thousands of Syrian students are in Jordanian in public schools, and a higher number receive medical care throughout public hospitals and government health centers.

All of the above normal. What is not, however, is that despite the official agitation from the unprecedented burden of Syrian refugees, the figures show otherwise; we discover that the unemployment rate fell to 11% at the end of the fourth quarter of last year, compared with 12.8% in the first quarter of the same year. How can the government explain these figures?

Despite the significant impact of the refugees on the general economic situation, and in particular poverty, the government still did not bother to measure the rates of poverty in the Kingdom, especially in the northern region, where more than 90% of Syrians live outside of refugee camps.

As for the numbers of population growth, which are not officially out yet, if they were real, and took into account the Syrian, they will increase at levels that will eat up growth in various economic sectors.

The numbers need to be audited and reviewed, to be an accurate reflection of reality, and show the real impact of the presence of such large number of Syrians on the ground in Jordan. The government cannot put together its economic plan while disregarding the Syrian factor.

There remains an urgent need for an interpretation of previous figures, if they are real, specifically in relation to poverty and unemployment. In case they were accurate, we will know that the Syrian refugees had benefits, as evidenced by improved economic indicators.

Eventually, 1,4 million Syrians are neither a hallucination nor a figment of our imagination, nor are they just another story told by the government; rather, they are part of the new reality, which imposes its rhythm on the economy, security and other sectors, and needs to be dealt with realistically to protect against its consequences on the comprehensive security matrix, and chiefly socio-economic security.

@jumanaghuneimat

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.

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