The Situation in Ajloun!

By: Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Mon 23 May / May 2016. 11:06 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

An extensive report by colleague Amer Khatatbeh, published in Al Ghad yesterday, Sunday, exposes the degree of imbalance and the scale of failure in the management of the humongous touristic resources Jordan is blessed with. This failure, is not exclusive to Ajloun!

The disparity outlined in the report is in that this governorate particularly has been blessed with 250 touristic sites, added the variety in natural scenery; leading to include four touristic discourses, from historical sites, like the Ajloun fort, to natural reserves, in a governorate suffering from immense poverty and sky-rocketing unemployment rates!

According to the Ministry of Planning —mindful of the beautification on these numbers; there are 3 poverty pockets in the governorates, at an unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent, while poverty has reached 25.6 per cent, compared to the general median, Kingdom-wide, reaching 14.4 per cent.

This is not, however, the greater disparity. The major one summarises Jordan’s predicament; from investment, to economy, indebtedness, unemployment, mismanagement, and poli-economic confusion, coupled with the State’s structural failures, in that the ratio of governorate residents employed in the public sector amount to 53.4 per cent, while the disastrous rate of residents employed in tourism do not exceed 1.3 per cent. This means that employment opportunities are brought about by the public sector, while employment in tourism, which should bring about enormous incomes to the residents of the governorates, bring neither jobs nor income!

Is it a dilemma of infrastructural failures? Indeed it is! Is it a socio-cultural issue? That too! Does the problem lie in cumulative failing official policy and the absence of any realisation of the importance of tourism, and its promotion and development? Sure. Does it also lie in government policies that push governorate youths over the decades to sanctify the public sector and choose it over self-employment? Yes! But in the end; Ajloun, Jerash, Petra, the JordanValley, Kerak, Umm Qais... etc, all comprise consecutive failures, shortcoming of the State and society’s economic identity.

The funny thing about it is that right next to the report on Ajloun, another report indicating the ratio of Jordanians travelling outbound by 5 per cent over the first quarter of the year; outbound Jordanian spending on travel during the first 3 months reached JOD217 million. With simple calculation, should the rate average throughout the year, spending could reach USD1 billion. Had half of that been spent on domestic tourism, it would have provided thousands of job opportunities, unlike the estimated 100 according to the Ministry of Labour!

A flashback to the figures on Jordanian expenditures on tourism overseas, in Turkish spas, Sharm el Sheikh, and other neighbouring countries, no less important —touristically speaking— than ours, indicate they would have refreshed the sector and provided employment, and well as the reinforcement of national economy with hard currency.

The infrastructure is very important. So is touristic awareness, training, rehabilitation of residents, as well as the media and the role of embassies worldwide. In respect to all that; we have utterly, remarkably failed 100 per cent.

A funny incident, or perhaps a tragedy; told to me by a foreign female friend working in Jordan. Having invited Jordanian youths to join in on a tour to visit Dana natural reserve down the south to camp, she was surprised by the fact that those Jordanians were furious that she had not beforehand explained that the reserve rests on top of a mountain-scape, and that they had not prepared for that, thinking it was flat!

Western foreign tourists know touristic sites in Jordan better than the Jordanians themselves, who know a lot more about Marmaris, Marbella, Cyprus, Sharm el Sheikh, and Tunisian Baths!