Jordan’s king calls for self-reliance to overcome challenges


AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdallah on Sunday urged the government and Parliament to be self-reliant.
“No one will solve our problems but us,” he said in a speech as he opened the winter session of Jordan’s 18th Parliament in Amman.
“We must harness our will, potential and energy to confidently and resolutely take on the challenges before us.”

Former Finance Minister Muhammad Abu Hammour told Arab News that the king’s “emphasis on self-reliance is an honest attempt to raise awareness about our difficulties, as unemployment is reaching 18 percent and the horizon for outside help is narrowing.”
Abu Hammour said the current deficit needs to be addressed by reducing capital spending and searching for internal revenue.

“Most of the spending in terms of salaries and retirement costs can’t be touched. This leaves capital expenditures, which will have to be cut back, but this will have a negative long-term effect,” he added.

Abu Hammour said revenue needs to increase by removing subsidies: “We need to stop subsidies that benefit non-Jordanians, while providing a safety net for the poor through direct cash support.”
Abu Hammour, now CEO of the Safwa Islamic Bank, added that the recently established Gulf Investment Fund needs to be energized, and that the international community must help Jordan with its refugee burden.


Jordan “continues to be burdened with costs that it has no control over. How can we become self-reliant when donor countries only provide us with 40 percent of what we need to cover the cost of serving refugees?” he said.
“When we have to cover the remaining 60 percent from the state coffers, this leave a big burden that can’t be easily erased.”

Aqel Biltaji, chairman of the board of Abdali Investment and Development PSC, told Arab News: “When you have 850,000 foreign laborers while half a million of your own citizens are without a job, something is wrong.”
Biltaji, former mayor of Amman and former tourism minister, said Jordanians need to learn to take on all kinds of jobs.

“Why don’t Jordanians go to the Jordan Valley and work there? Why do we depend on so many laborers to do various jobs in housing, agriculture and tourism?”
Biltaji called for a revolution in attitudes toward work and the education curriculum, saying: “Many industrial countries employ more than 85 percent of their population in various vocations. Why do we all want to limit ourselves to desk jobs?”
Former Culture Minister Sabri Rbeihat told Arab News: “I applaud the call for self-reliance, but it must start at the official level. We need to reduce our bloated government payroll and live within our means.”

He added: “We have so many governmental institutions that we don’t need, and many that aren’t even held accountable by anyone. Before we ask the public to change attitudes, we need to see leadership from the government in this area.”
Rbeihat also questioned the water policies that restrict digging wells, saying there are successful farms on Israel’s side of the Wadi Araba but no development on Jordan’s side.
“People hear names of individuals who are accused of corruption, yet nothing happens to them,” he added.

“They see Jordanians with lots of money choosing not to invest in Jordan and taking their money outside, and they notice the large tax evasion. This is demoralizing, and doesn’t help the public agree to austerity measures and to become self-reliant.”

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