Jordan is an amazing country of stunning beauty. An oasis of stability in a region where armed conflict is a regular occurrence, this desert nation hosts the second-largest number of refugees per capita in the world.Like the old story about engineers pronouncing that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly, first-time observers watch and wonder.
About four in 10 citizens live in the capital, Amman, where population more than doubled within a decade. More than 90 per cent of the country is desert. That area is home to only about five per cent of citizens.
In recent years, Jordan has become a major focus of Canadian foreign aid. This issue contains stories about Government of Canada-funded work that MEDA is doing in the country through its Jordan Valley Links project.
Investments linked to MEDA’s mission of creating business solutions to poverty are improving lives for disadvantaged individuals, families and entire communities.
Much remains to be done. As many as one in seven citizens live below the poverty line.
MEDA’s work is focused on vulnerable citizens of Jordan. Overall unemployment was running at nearly 19 per cent in mid-2018. Men had an unemployment rate of 16.6 per cent. Unemployment was close to 27 per cent for women, and as much as 30 per cent for youth (under age 30).
Our July issue will feature stories of how small grants and technical assistance are making a difference for Jordanian entrepreneurs.
Syria and Jordan
The Syrian civil war dealt a triple whammy to Jordan’s economy. Exports and imports alike were disrupted. Over 600,000 Syrian refugees fled to their southern neighbor — the fourth major influx of refugees to Jordan in 50 years.
Before the war, Syria was Jordan’s main gateway for exporting fruits and vegetables to Turkey and Europe. Jordan sent 300 to 400 freight trucks of vegetables and fruits to Syria a day.
The World Bank estimates Jordan spends more than $2.5 billion a year (more than six per cent of gross domestic product, and one quarter of government spending) in supporting refugees, the 2019 edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Jordan says.
Even if the Syrian conflict is ending after eight years, that doesn’t mean things will go back to the way they used to be. The Jordanian economy is redeveloping. Some products that were formerly imported from Syria are now being made by Syrians living in camps in Jordan.
Some of those people are not going back to Syria.
Water and Jordan
A shortage of water is a major challenge facing Jordan, as it is for several other nations in the region. Jordan is the fifth most water impoverished country in the world.
About 90 per cent of its rivers are being diverted. The Jordan River is barely deep enough to float a canoe at some points. The Dead Sea is receding by at least a metre a year. There are plans for a pipeline that will bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, but timelines for the start of construction have passed several times.
Unlike its neighbors, Jordan does not have oil deposits, which may have spared it from wars that have ravaged other parts of the region.
Alleviating the water shortage may be an important part of its future economic development. — MS