Interview: Imad Fakhoury
How is the ministry working with other countries to reduce the burden of the Syrian crisis on Jordan?
IMAD FAKHOURY: The Syrian crisis is now in its sixth year and becoming one of the most tragic humanitarian crises since the Second World War in terms of scale and impact. It has obviously distorted Jordan’s development schemes, increased public debt and hampered the country’s sustainable development. About 89% of Syrians are living outside the camps, which puts immeasurable pressure on the kingdom’s host communities, as well as on social and physical infrastructure.
Jordan has been pioneering a resilience-based approach with the international community to deal with the impact of the Syrian crisis, and has developed response plans as a result. The latest one is the Jordan Response Plan 2016-18, a rolling plan that effectively links short-term coping mechanisms with longer-term initiatives aimed at strengthening local and national resilience capacities. The plan was also based on a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and developed to ensure that the proper priorities are identified, be it for refugees in and out of camps or for host communities.
In 2016 we realised that, despite our staunch efforts, the response has not been good enough. While we are grateful for the support we have received so far, unfortunately it has not mitigated the burgeoning impact of the crisis. At the London conference in February 2016, Jordan, in coordination with its partners, proposed a holistic approach as a paradigm shift and response to the protracted nature of the crisis. We came up with a comprehensive framework to help bridge the divide between the short-term needs of refugees and host communities, and the long-term development responses that are required for Jordan to move forward without jeopardising its hard-earned development gains and sustainable development trajectory.
To this end, Jordan achieved the Jordan Compact in London and secured simplified rules of origin for free trade with the EU until December 31, 2026, enabling us to attract new investments, access the EU market and help reconstruct the region. The deal will also help sustain our macroeconomic stability, which has been re-enforced by a programme with the IMF. With increased aid support, these factors can assist in creating a sustainable path for our prosperity and development, thus maintaining our ability to implement Jordan 2025; a 10-year socio-economic roadmap that details our commitment to continuous improvement of the business environment and to human resources development. Furthermore, we have launched a series of investment opportunities worth over $25bn, which are to be implemented as public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the water, transport, energy, urban development, infrastructure, tourism, and ICT sectors.
In what ways is the country progressing towards achieving the structural reforms demanded by the new IMF Extended Fund Facility programme?
FAKHOURY: The new programme with the IMF focuses on fiscal consolidation and structural measures. The main financial aim is to bring the gross debt-to-GDP ratio to 77% by 2021. This is vital, and is in line with Jordan 2025. These reforms are really home-grown and are key measures that need to be taken to increase Jordan’s competitiveness, prosperity and resilience. Regarding the structural changes, we are focusing on promoting investment and employment, so we aim to enhance the energy, water and financial sectors, the business environment, and the labour market.
In addition, we plan to improve public investment and strengthen the way Jordan uses PPPs to deliver public services and infrastructure. We have also adopted a new public investment management framework with the World Bank, and created a unit in the ministry that will conduct cost-benefit analyses for public spending projects and decide whether they should be funded by the Treasury or via a PPP model. This is intended to make our system more transparent and effective.
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