PM: Jordan lives in tough neighborhood, most of its problems created across borders | Jordan News | Ammon News



PM: Jordan lives in tough neighborhood, most of its problems created across borders


[1/23/2020 6:58:19 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said Jordan lives in a tough neighborhood, as most of its problems are created across the borders and then spillover into it, noting to the refugees who are forming 20 percent of the Kingdom's population, in addition to the closed borders, regional conflicts and high unemployment, especially among youth.

In an interview with the New York-based Bloomberg News, the premier said Jordan has proven to be a resilient state, as it has committed in the London conference, last year, to a matrix of reforms over five years that already started paying off. For example, Jordan's exports are up by around 9 percent in 2019, the first year to implement the reform measures.

On the refugees, Razzaz said we hope that we don't have to deal with it by ourselves, this is not a crisis created by Jordan and we did what's right, stressing that Jordan opened its borders to women and children and accommodated 1.3 million refugees in schools, health centers, camps and outside camps. The cost of this is around 2.4 billion per year.

"I think we have to realize that even if we think we won the battle with ISIS, this is not a battle. This is a war. It used to be al-Qaida. Now it's ISIS and there is going to be version 3 and version 4. Vacuum is dangerous," he stated, adding all countries of the region and the world need to invest in the peace and security and bring the parties together around the table and all the countries in the region.

The prime minster also noted that many Gulf countries have their own challenges and problems, and they were very supportive of Jordan, especially by offering several grant projects, hoping that allies will come from the Gulf and invest in large scale projects of water, energy and public transport, especially in shipping goods, trains and passengers.

On the Palestinian issue, Razzaz affirmed that His Majesty King Abdullah II led the efforts and reminded the world that the origin, the core of all of the problems we're seeing is the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front without a two state solution.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Jordan is facing a pretty tough economic condition, low economic growth. We have high unemployment, the presence of refugees and a regional crisis. What will be your priority for 2020?

A: Thank you, Francine. Delighted to be here. We live in a tough neighborhood. Most of our problems are created across the borders and then spillover into Jordan. We have 20 percent of our population are refugees, with slow trade and all the closures and the conflicts in the region. Unemployment, especially among youth, is very high. Having said that, I think Jordan has established itself as a very resilient country in a troubled region. And we're determined to make things work on all fronts.
I think politically and economically, we've proven to be a resilient state and moving forward. So to give you examples, we have committed in the London conference last year, to a matrix of reforms over five years. It's already started paying off. So, for example, we have fantastic FTA agreements, free trade agreements, but they had not been taken advantage of and our SMEs sector was not exporting. So we did the measures on that. Our exports are up by around 9 percent 2019, the first year we've implemented that. Same with ICT. We have tremendous youth talent in Jordan and the growth in the ICT sector is around 11 percent, much larger than the overall growth. Tourism is a fantastic sector in Jordan. We have Petra, we have heritage side, we have Christian pilgrimage site, we have beautiful Wadi Rum. Now we have the low cost carriers open and tourism is up 10 percent and in one year. So we have a lot of this happening. And as we implement these reforms, the doing business indicators that we have, we're up twenty nineteen points on them.

Q: How do you deal with the refugee crisis?

A: Well, we hope that we don't have to deal with it by ourselves. This is not a crisis created by Jordan and we did what's right. We opened our borders to women and children and accommodated 1.3 million refugees in schools, health centers, camps and outside camps. The cost of this to us is around 2.4 billion per year.

Q: How alone, Prime Minister, do you sometimes feel in dealing with the crisis?

A: Let me give you an example. In 2018, We went to the world and said, look, we're bearing the brunt of this crisis. We need your help. The World Bank came up with the cost. We've got around 64 percent of the costs covered. But last year, 2019, we got around 42 percent covered. Now we realize there's "donor fatigue" and "country fatigue". But the refugees are still in Jordan and somebody still needs to take care of them. Or the last thing we want to do is force them back over the border when it's still not safe. So we're doing our part. We hope the world does, too.

Q: Previously, you talked about the Middle East being a tough neighborhood. If the U.S. pulls troops out of Iraq, what happens to that neighborhood?

A: I think we have to realize that even if we think we won the battle with ISIS, this is not a battle. This is a war. It used to be al-Qaida. Now it's ISIS that is gonna be version 3 and version 4. Vacuum is dangerous. Failed states are dangerous. The undermining of sovereignty and borders is dangerous. I think all countries of the region and the world need to invest in the peace and security and bringing the parties together around the table and all the countries in the region. Otherwise, we will have failed states. And then it's gonna be extremely difficult to manage.

Q: Gulf state allies have pledged and extended about five billion dollars to Jordan. Have they pledged more? What comes after?

A: Well, that is not the number that we have received, but many Gulf states have their own challenges and problems. They have been very supportive to Jordan, especially in helping us with supporting us with projects that are grant projects, large scale projects that we are moving forward to. We have a public-private partnership, and we're hoping that our allies will come in from the Gulf and invest in large scale projects in water, energy, public transport, mainly cargo shipment, train and passenger. These are all ready. And we're talking to our partners.

Q: The king has said that Jordanian-Israeli ties are actually at their lowest. When will they get better and what impact does it have on actually gas relationships?

A: Well, his majesty the king has really led the call and reminded the world that the origin, the core of all of the problems we're seeing is the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front without a two state solution. Things are going to get worse rather than better. It is crucial that Palestinians aspirations of a state of their own. They are not second-class citizens. And his majesty pointed to the fact that it is at the lowest point. This year, Israel witnessed three elections without clear outcomes. Both parties are appealing to the right wing that doesn't believe in a Palestinian state. So we're appealing to the world to not let this door and possibility for a true lasting peace get closed. Some of the actions that bilateral actions on the ground are creating facts on the ground and closing the possibility of a peace in the region.

Q: So what are our prospects for peace?

A: We'll have to wait for the outcome of the Israeli election and see a change of attitude, frankly. Otherwise, we will see these constantly, these side wars, if you will, and failed states. And we need to get to the core of it and pull together towards a peaceful solution that would put both states with Palestine as a state with Jerusalem as its capital. And the Hashemites and Jordan are very concerned because we have custodianship over holy sites representing the Christian world and the Muslim world. And any unilateral action on that by the Israeli side would be extremely dangerous.

Prime Minister, thank you so much for your time.

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