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Looking at Jordan's economy in one full package

Being in the midst of a turbulent region, Jordan's economy has always been effected. Today, the Kingdom is striving hard to become part of the globalization system.

The Jordanian economy is often perceived as struggling against the grasping force of politics. But despite this, the government has always made plans to achieve sustainable growth.

The UK-based Oxford Business Group (OBG) believes the local economy is adapting well to the political challenges in the region. The "Emerging Jordan 2003" report, published by the Oxford Business Group in October, contextualizes the future of the economy in the scope of the current political challenges.

The recent economic initiatives introduced in Jordan helps in developing its economy. The Free Trade Agreement with the US, the European-Jordan Association Agreement and the rising national exports to Arab and world countries created a healthy environment for investment and business. The OBG report predicts Jordan's economy will conquer threats in the long-term. But this can only happen if the public and private sectors live up to their commitments.

"The number of initiatives in Jordan continues to grow as individuals, companies and associations. These identify new areas in which to make important contributions to the country's economic future," said the report, published in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan.

The 216-page report is an extensive and incisive economic analysis, tackling the present conditions of the local economy, its future potentials and ways to enhance growth. The report also includes comprehensive interviews with His Majesty King Abdallah, Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb and local and regional economic experts. King Abdallah reiterates Jordan's position as an active and meaningful partner in the global economy. It is a fact that requires a high caliber workforce. "I believe Jordan has embarked on a path that will enable it to make use of its comparative regional advantage and its competent and knowledgeable workforce in order to leapfrog into the new global economy," the King added.

He also emphasized Jordan's economic misfortunes that are expected to emerge from an imminent war on Iraq. The King noted such misfortunes are already seen in Jordan because of the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Territories.

"The momentum and the economic focus that we have worked so hard to build would be lost. The reforms that have been initiated...would not be realizable in the near future, and thus would lead our people to further frustration and despair." (Full text of King Abdallah's interview on page three.) The Oxford report analyzes a wide range of economic sectors, notably the capital markets and industry. These sectors act today under the umbrella of transparent laws and legislative infrastructure.

Over the past seven decades, local capital markets, notably the Amman Stock Exchange and the banking sector, have emerged and developed gradually to constitute today the substructure of the economy.

Abul Ragheb highlights in the report the future of Jordan's economy under the obligation of the current political and economic reforms, in which his government has adopted since June 2000.

Abul Ragheb noted the government has created a good infrastructure for investment and passed significant legislations to facilitate the flow of investments into the Kingdom.

Although most of these laws are still controversial, the prime minister said the government should be praised for its efforts in constituting all the economic and social reforms that are important for Jordanians. Reading the "Emerging Jordan 2003" report will certainly help to formulate a clearer picture about the present condition of the business environment in the Kingdom. This environment remains healthy despite the war rhetoric on Iraq. Jordan's tourism industry is one of the sectors the report believes will flourish. This is despite the fact that tourism's ratio to GDP in Jordan has slumped from 12 percent in 1999 to about eight percent today.

"The most important argument in Jordan's favor, as a future draw to western tourists, is the country's commitment," the report said. Such a commitment must be clear both to further develop the current famous sites and to identify and improve sites which have not yet been featured in package tours.
Emerging Jordan also demands a transparent and free media. The press in Jordan is a state-run one. The report indicates the government levies on the mass media could mean fewer choices for readers.

The same can be said about the advertising business in Jordan. "The low share of radio and TV advertising is expected to climb with the future advent of private television stations," the report pointed out. "But fear of outside competition has kept advertising rates unchanged." "Emerging Jordan 2003" is without doubt an interesting overview of the performance of Jordan's economy in its present state. It is testimony to one of the most open and liberalized economies in the Middle East.

Amman,11 16 2002
Ghassan Joha
The Star
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