Interview: Yarub Qudah

How would you assess current levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the industrial sector?

YARUB QUDAH: In 2016 FDI reached JD1bn ($1.4bn) compared to JD1.14bn ($1.6bn) in 2015. Jordan’s business environment is conducive to attracting new investments, expanding current agreements and encouraging new partnerships across a variety of sectors. Freedom in the trade and investment sphere continues to sustain market openness, keeping the economy relatively competitive. Meanwhile, incentivised special and industrial zones, highly developed infrastructure and modern logistics facilities draw potential investors and entrepreneurs. Collectively these factors continue to support local investments, while also attracting foreign investments. Furthermore, Jordan provides the necessary expertise and essential resources needed to launch joint projects to rebuild Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

How will future policies enhance credit access for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

QUDAH: Access to credit is very critical for SME growth and development in Jordan. Currently, Jordanian SMEs rely on internal sources of funding in the early development stages, but as they expand external resources become more important, and the availability of financing can determine their long-term success. In Jordan access to finance for SMEs is an obstacle, because the majority of SMEs do not have limited liability status, making it more difficult to borrow money from financial institutions. The government has always urged stakeholders to use the latest technologies to provide more digital financial services, as we believe that technology could greatly boost financial integration of more segments of society. Financial technology could take advantage of the high rates of Jordanian mobile and internet penetration. In collaboration with industry leaders, we have discussed how emerging technologies and innovative digital approaches can give Jordanian businesses better access to finance.

In what ways can Jordan further promote economic growth, despite its high energy costs?

QUDAH: Like many other developing countries, Jordan is constrained by a lack of resources. However, the government realises the importance of energy in socio-economic development, and has made a significant effort to provide a secure and reliable supply of energy. Jordan is seeking innovative solutions and has made strong progress towards establishing itself as a green economy. We have set up partnerships with international leaders to advance and commercialise Jordanian technologies, in addition to adopting policies that will help make Jordan a model of energy efficiency, water conservation and environmental care. The government’s eco-friendly initiatives are to increase the efficiency of the water distribution system and related infrastructure, maximise the use of treated wastewater for agricultural and industrial purposes, and embark on renewable energy ventures to generate electricity using wind and solar power.

Why is Jordan targeting free trade agreements (FTAs) with non-traditional markets like Kenya?

QUDAH: Due to the current geopolitical situation and the frequent closure of borders with Syria and Iraq, domestic exports declined by 8% during 2012-16. As a result, the government and the private sector have been compelled to work out alternatives, and new markets have been opened to enhance trade flows. Jordan and Kenya represent perfect gateways for penetrating new regions, as well as for boosting trade and investment relations. The proposed bilateral FTA provides an opportunity for Jordanian products to access Kenyan and wider east African markets. In addition, the government is keen to boost exports to other markets, such as east Asia and Latin America.