Shehab Al Makahleh
Jordanians are much more pessimistic in 2020 than ever whereas the Jordanian government sees that this year is promising and will have direct positive impact on people’s livelihoods. However, realistic experts do believe that 2020 is a decisive year for the Middle East region in general and for Jordan in particular as economic and political issues will be an existential threat to many nations.
The first challenge facing Jordan is unemployment. More than 65 percent of Jordan’s population is young people under the age of 40 and they have the ability and competence to work, but they cannot find opportunities that are consistent with their studies and experiences. The high rates of unemployed people, especially those with higher university degrees, place a significant level of pressure on the government. This is a major challenge that should be addressed with wisdom and a high sense of responsibility. Since the government faces high levels of what is known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as inflation indicator, this limits the government’s ability to create more than 6,000 jobs annually in the public sector. This issue increases with the decline in economic development and the withdrawal of foreign investments out of the country, aggravating the levels of unemployment.
The second challenge is poverty, which has become chronic due to imbalances between financial and economic resources on one hand, and an increase in the population as a result of (refugee waves) on the other. Jordan is expected to record economic progress of 2 percent in 2020, which means that there are no vacancies for future jobs for at least for 5 years in the public sector. At best, there will be limited opportunities in the educational and health sectors only. The poverty line has been set to 900 dinars per person per year to meet basic needs. That is, a family of 5 requires a minimum of 4,500 dinars annually as a minimum to obtain basic needs. Thus, we find that 21 percent of the population are below poverty line,
The third challenge is the increase in public debt, which amounted to 30 billion Jordanian dinars (45 billion USD), which constitutes more than 96 per cent of the country’s GDP, not to mention the general economic deterioration, budget deficit, low living standards as well as a semi-extinction of the middle class. The fourth challenge is corruption, stemming from the misuse of public authority for individual interests, which includes the embezzlement of public funds and the confiscation of state-owned companies by public officials or individuals who abuse their powers for personal benefits.
The fifth challenge is the steady increase in the population. In 2018, Jordan had a population of 10.3 million citizens compared to 7 million in 2011. The underlying causes are the waves of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Libya. In Jordan, there are more than 55 Arab and foreign nationalities. The population growth rate is 3 per cent, which is one of the highest in the world.
As for the sixth challenge, it is drugs that have become the most threatening to Jordan’s stability and security. Perhaps trafficking had become a major threat to the economy and to the people because of its devastating economic and social impacts. It seems that in the past the issue of drugs was not organized as it is today and here lies the greatest danger. The seventh challenge is terrorism and extremism. Since 1928, Jordan has suffered from terrorism and ideological extremism at various levels with the aim of undermining the kingdom’s stability and security. This challenge is the greatest source of concern for the Jordanian state. The eight challenge is brain drain which has forced many Jordanian professionals to leave their country, seeking entities which appreciate their qualifications away from nepotism and bigotry.
There are of course other strategic challenges which require regional and international cooperation including the proposed “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, energy and water resources. Therefore, it is necessary to face these challenges and deal with them by improving the relationship between the government and the people through opening direct communication between officials and citizens in an atmosphere of disclosure and transparency to ward off rumors and refute them to keep young people in their homeland and not leave in search of job opportunities in other countries. Besides, the Kingdom faces many challenges that focus on concepts such as social polarization, national unity and fostering loyalty not only to the regime, but to the homeland as well.
Jordan is among those countries which will have internal and external challenges and threats that pose a major existential threat to its security and stability. Regardless of regional and international competition on the Middle East chessboard, successful political experiences must be adapted by Jordan in order to mobilize citizens to back the kingdom’s leadership and government to enhance security and stability at all levels to be able collectively to address such challenges and threats. Besides, a network of complex multi-dimensional relationships of regional and international alliances would ensure the achievement of Jordan’s supreme national interests. Perhaps diversifying the network of regional and international relations and expanding neutrality are a must for Jordan to survive, considering economic crises that Jordan has been going through for several years.