The writer is CEO of the Envision Consulting Group and former minister of state for economic affairs.
Since its inception, Jordan has been an aid beneficiary country. Yet aid ebbs and flows — it is never steady or secure enough to enable forward planning or strategic thinking. What is more, for several decades now, the government has relegated funding for capital expenditures (spending on projects that enhance productivity and invest in the future of the country) to foreign aid. Some aid sources seem to be drying up, leaving us to question: Where do we go now?
The IMF has been the economic policy guru, overseer and guide in Jordan since 1989. However, it has also been the subject of heavy criticism from the economic profession worldwide, including some of the profession’s top scholars, such as Joseph Stiglitz.
The government budget is usually its strategy and blueprint for what it is going to do in the coming year to stimulate the economy. December is that time of the year when we sit around and discuss the proposed government budget. The perpetually hopeful question is, does this budget bring anything new?
A few days ago, the IMF concluded its fifth review under the Stand-By Arrangement with Jordan. The review will bring the total of IMF disbursements over 2020-24 to around $2 billion, and signal to donors that Jordan is well on its way to effecting reform, which would encourage their loans and grants. Still, reading the review elicits skepticism and questions.
Jordan signed the EU Association Agreement (AA) with the EU in 1997, two years after the Barcelona Declaration. The AA, which entered into effect in 2002, covered political, trade, economic, social, and cultural venues of cooperation. Moreover, in 2016, to help with the refugee situation in what became known as the Jordan Compact, the EU, through the EU Relaxation Decision (No.1/2016), relaxed requirements concerning certificates of origin for certain goods produced in Jordan for a 10-year period, until December 31, 2026. Now that 20 years have passed, it is only fair to ask whether the AA added value, and had a discernible impact on employment and foreign direct investment (FDI) in Jordan, and, if not, what remedies/changes can be done to fix the AA.
A most fundamental question emerging in innovation research is why some organizations innovate while others do not.
One of the anomalies in the labor market in Jordan, where women are more educated than men, is it has the third lowest women labor participation rates (ranked 179 out of 182) in the world. While the reasons are many (transport, culture, public sector employment opportunities, among others) there remains an important observation that has not received much attention from the reformers: why do women unemployment rates rise in good economic times relative to those of men, and fall in bad times?
Many had predicted that Jordan would enter into a period of stagflation (stagnation plus inflation) as a result of recent global developments. Such opinion was based on lack of knowledge of the Jordanian economic story. And recent data shows the falsity of such prediction.
The words gig economy, innovation, and entrepreneurship are thrown around and discussed almost daily in the media and policy corridors in Jordan. They are also touted as the three musketeers, the saviors from unemployment in Jordan. However, given that there is little on the ground in terms of government support for all three, it may be that there is a sinister motive for using such slogans.
Engineering degrees are highly sought in Jordan, demanding in terms of academic rigor, and costly. But in terms of employment, recent data shows that they are not rewarding. In fact, about one third (even close to 40 percent in some fields) of engineers are unemployed.