FULL THRUST AHEAD

Jordan 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Jordan's immediate focus is to stimulate economic growth and propel productivity and job creation, for which the government continues to work on its priority action plan and undertake scores of reforms.

Omar Razzaz
BIOGRAPHY
Omar Razzaz is the current Prime Minister of Jordan. He holds a PhD in planning with a minor in economics from Harvard and a post doctorate from Harvard Law School. He was formerly an assistant professor with the International Development Program and Regional Planning Program at MIT and Country Manager of the Lebanon Country Office at the World Bank, with experience covering areas of private sector development and infrastructure finance. He was also Director-General of Jordan’s Social Security Corporation and led the national team responsible for the preparation of the National Employment Strategy. He is an author of publications in oft-referred journals.

There was a recent archaeological discovery in northeastern Jordan, where the world's oldest piece of bread was found in a stone fireplace, dating back to a 14,500-year-old settlement, 4,000 years before the agricultural era began to take hold. These oldest-known remnants of bread left by our ancestors represent the kind of innovation and determination that we have preserved to this day, and as Jordanians, we have shared and continue to share our bread with others. These traits have become embedded in Jordan's DNA.

Although we have faced a difficult period, we are at one of the most promising, pivotal points of our history as well. Jordan lives in a tough neighborhood, but what Jordan has chosen to do with its geopolitical circumstances has been a matter of sheer will and determination. In this complex and turbulent region, we have chosen to stick by the simple ethos of 'do well by doing good' for ourselves and for others.

Jordan received 1.3 million Syrians in less than five years. The impact on our infrastructure and economy was tremendous. According to World Bank estimates, our open door policy toward Syrians cost Jordan USD2.5 billion per year. In 2016, HM King Abdullah II warned that Jordan had reached a boiling point. Gratefully, some aid and support did come from the international community, and in its characteristically resolute, inventive, and constructive way, Jordan managed to stabilize the situation.
It is now the time for all of us to move forward from crisis management to growth and prosperity realization by working together with old friends and new partners to do good and do well. First and foremost, Jordan's immediate focus is to stimulate economic growth in order to provide greater opportunities to Jordanians.

Moving forward on this mandate has required a number of tough and swift actions related to macroeconomic stability, stimulation of economic growth, reduction in the cost of energy, and capitalization on our tremendous human capital potential. Since coming to office, my government has worked with parliament to introduce a fairly stringent set of measures, including the elimination of certain subsidies, reduction in public expenditures, and the introduction of a new income tax law that fortifies the country's fiscal foundations. In parallel, the government launched its priority action plan centered on three main pillars: to strengthen the rule of law and governance; provide better public services; and propel economic growth, productivity, and job creation.

Within this guiding framework, between January 2018 and February 2019, we undertook scores of key reforms, from making sure procurement processes are more efficient and transparent to strengthening Jordan public officials' financial disclosure requirements and introducing bold new labor laws designed to encourage women's participation in the workforce.
Jordan understands that its path to sustainable and equitable economic growth includes aggressively increasing exports and FDI and enhancing its operational competitiveness. For this, we have developed a Five-Year Reform and Growth Matrix, which combines short-and medium-term actions for a realistic economic transformation. This matrix is devised to create not just jobs, but also an enabling economic environment for the advancement of Jordan's educated, skilled, and motivated population—especially women and youth—in already leading fields such as business services, technology, healthcare, engineering, tourism, and logistics.

A valuable tool for investors that we have developed in cooperation with our international partners is the Project Pipeline Development Facility, geared toward preparing PPP projects that attract investments in key sectors such as water, health, ICT, tourism, waste management, and transport.

As an example and model to replicate, we have a proven track record in the promising and barely tapped energy sector. Frequent energy supply disruptions from regional sources taught us the importance of energy diversification and self-reliance. By utilizing our abundant supply of renewable energy, Jordan is well positioned to take advantage of a future full of emerging opportunities. Indeed, targeted investments in Jordan's energy sector is setting in motion a virtuous cycle in the national economy, bringing down production costs, greening the economy, and allowing businesses to become more competitive. Many other sectors have the same dynamic potential.