Will 2021 bring economic growth?

Salameh daraawi
Salameh Darawi (Photo: JNews)
I was one of the few people who estimated that the economic growth for 2021 would be around 2.5 percent, which is the same rate achieved over the past 10 years. اضافة اعلان

I did not personally foresee any difficulty in recovering from the negative growth rates of 2020 and reaching positive growth rates this year, which was supposed to return to normal with the pandemic curve flattening out and the vaccine reaching the largest possible segment of society. This would allow suspended economic sectors such as tourism, transportation, and others, to resume their usual activity, and actively participate in the gross domestic product.

The previous assumptions on which the 2021 budget was based are no longer correct. There are many unsettling indicators that surfaced in the first quarter of this year.

The COVID-19 situation has also worsened dramatically over the past weeks.

This regression has led the government to return to partial ban policies and fully close a large number of sectors, which will contribute to the decline in Treasury revenues from various fees and taxes that had already decreased last year by more than JD750 million. This went against all expectations the government had.

This does not only affect Jordan. The repercussions of COVID-19 have had devastating effects on the whole world, which will hold the national economy hostage in 2021. This means that the tourism sector, whose contribution to the GDP is more than 14 percent and which supplies the Kingdom with essential foreign currency, will not return to work. This has come after its growth rates had exceeded 10 percent in 2019, bringing in a revenue of JD2 million.

The lack of control over the pandemic locally, regionally, and internationally means that uncertainty will continue to loom over the global economy, and remittances from expatriates will be vulnerable to decline, knowing that for the first time in 10 years, they have already declined by 8 percent over the past year.

The government’s ability to attract new foreign investment will be near impossible in light of the difficult health conditions, which will have a significant negative impact on any official national efforts to combat unemployment, whose rate rose in the fourth quarter of last year to 24.7 percent. The pressure is increasing on the private sector to employ more workers due to the severe limitations the public sector is facing due to a chronic budget imbalance and a deficit of more than JD2 billion.

Nationally, the government may face the dilemma of providing additional allocations to the National Aid Fund and money to pay for daily workers whose number exceeds 400,000 people, the majority of whom are not covered by social security. The government may resort, as is its custom, to local and foreign loans, which means that the national debt ratios may exceed 111 percent of the gross domestic product, which may be about JD34 billion, by the end of this year.

If the current situation continues and the government is not able to provide an adequate number of vaccines, in addition to the reluctance of citizens to receive the vaccine, the economy will not be able to even reach its modest estimated growth for 2021.

Read more opinion & analysis