"We want to be an example of tolerance, a pluralistic society and economic development."
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Interview with S. E. Issa Ayyoub
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is warmly regarded and enjoys great respect worldwide. This stems from King Hussein’s (1935 – 1999) policies of reconciliation and tolerance in a hotspot in history. King Abdullah II is continuing the polices of his father, whose economic and social reforms are elaborated below by H. E. Issa Ayyoub, Jordan’s ambassador in Germany.
ARAB FORUM: Your Excellency, a good ten years ago, in February 1999, H. M. Abdullah II became king of Jordan. He took the office with the intention of continuing the reforms his father, King Hussein, had begun. What are the aims of these reforms?
Ayyoub: Upon his Majestys instructions, the government, together with the non-governmental organizations and other institutions of civil society, increased the rate of reform. The reforms affect the strengthening of democracy and the political participation, including that of women, the holding of free and independent elections, the strengthening of a free and independent press and free speech. Civil society should participate in the social, economic and political development in accordance with the laws.
I would like to stress the progress made in including women in social tasks. This has had a considerably positive influence on the strengthening of democracy and the development of human resources.
In addition, the Kingdom of Jordan places great emphasis on the education and training of the youth, as a modern economy should.
We promote tolerance and understanding in the youth, ensure a high level of education, and support curiosity and creativity in all school children and college students, in their families and schools in order to achieve a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of religions and cultures among one another.
ARAB FORUM: What is the present state of economic, social and political change in Jordan?
Ayyoub: Jordan was one of the first states in the region to introduce reforms. We want to be an example of tolerance, pluralistic society and economic development, for our region as well as for others. Part of this is Suffrage. Local and parliamentary elections have been held with absolute transparency. Jordan fosters the independence of the judiciary and the press. Further projects include strengthening the political parties, the participation of women and the youth in political life, the safeguarding of equal rights and equal opportunity, as well as strengthening private enterprise. At the focus of interest for the Jordanian government is the long-term modernization of the economy. This includes increasing productivity and fighting poverty and unemployment.
I would like to stress that despite being located in a conflict-wracked region and the challenges facing it, Jordan is unwaveringly continuing its reforms on the path to democracy. Thanks to its security and maintenance of human rights, it has become a destination for citizens of other states of the region.
At this point, reference most certainly must be made to the persistent efforts of H. M. King Abdullah II in supporting the powers of moderation in the region against those of extremism and disassociation, and the solving of difficult problems by way of diplomacy and dialog so that our region can live in lasting peace and security.
ARAB FORUM: Jordan plays a leading role in the dialog of cultures. What has Jordan achieved through these efforts?
Ayyoub: Based on the traditionally recognized position of the Hashemites in the Islamic world, King Abdullah II signalized the moderate image of Islam in his Amman Message on November 9, 2004.
The message condemned all forms of terror, violence, discrimination, and one-sidedness. It also called for a deepening of civilized living and working together and, to strengthen the contribution of the Arabs and Muslims to civilization, stressed the special content of Islam that mankind urgently needs, particularly now in the present world crisis.
“The Amman Charter for Civilizing Dialog” was also proclaimed in Amman, which contains a clear invitation from Jordan’s academics to the experts of the world to participate in a dialog and work more intensely together in creating a society that is free of racism, bigotry and discord.
The charter calls upon the whole Arab and Islamic world to invest more in science and technology. The universities should also cooperate in the working out of curricula, in research and in the solution of today’s problems. The charter also urges compromise thinking. This serves the present and future of all Muslims. It also recommends the integration of Islamic minorities living in the West in the societies there; to become part of them and to play a partnership role without giving up their identity and special mannerisms and remain a part of Islam.
ARAB FORUM: Jordan particularly wants to modernize its economy and attract investors. What kinds of incentives and advantages are you granting them?
Ayyoub: Jordan lies at the intersection of three continents. This regional location and its excellent road network makes Jordan an ideal stepping stone for many companies that want to export to neighboring countries with which we maintain trading agreements. This expands a company’s market to over a billion consumers in the Near East, Europe and North America. In addition, the Kingdom’s political and economic climate strengthens its role as a warehouse to supply these huge markets.
The Jordanian Investment Promotion Law offers a series of incentives and advantages, particularly in industry, agriculture, the hospital sector, hotel industry, sport and recreation industry, maritime and rail transportation and the distribution of water and gas. The same holds true for petroleum products and trade fairs. Jordan’s economy also offers opportunities in fast growing sectors like mining, the pharmacy industry, information and communication technology, products from the Dead Sea, the clothing industry, tourism, as well as real estate and motor construction.
(Editor’s note: in the following, Ambassador Ayyoub elaborates on Jordan’s essential economic projects.)
Al Aqabah Special Zone
The Jordanian government took a courageous step in declaring the Al Aqabah region (the Jordanian seaport and all its surrounding territory with a total area of 375 km2) to be a free trade zone. This region magnetically attracts private and foreign investors because it has a highly developed infrastructure, excellent services and supply systems, high quality of life and an excellent investment climate.
The main investment opportunities are offered by the industrial area, Al Aqabah-South. It stretches out over a 12 km2 long heavy industry area capable of development along the new harbor, Al Aqabah, which will be completed in the next five years. Two of its wharfages for the import and export of wet and dry goods are already in operation.
The development authority for the Al Aqabah Special Zone is interested in working with investors from many branches, such as railroad, industrial facilities construction, technical and biological research centers, as well as in the construction of maintenance bases for industrial equipment in the Al Aqabah region.
The King Hussein Ibn Talal Development Area
It is located in the city of Mafraq, about 60 km north of Amman on an intersection of the roads to Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The area was built on an 21 km2 area alongside the Mafraq airport and a stretch of railroad to industrialize the region. The laws passed for it ensure those interested of the opportunity of investing in the industrial sector and service industries. More than 300 million consumers can be reached from this geographically exposed location through a good road network to the seaport and the King Hussein Airport in Mafraq. This can make the region not only a production and service center for light industries, and food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, but also a logistics center for further distribution to neighboring countries.
The Irbid Development Area
This area in the north of Jordan is distinguished by a research center, a technical university and the King Abdullah II University Hospital. Located about 20 km from the center of Irbids and about 80 km distance from Amman, it stretches out over 3.2 km2. Its investments are concentrated in communication and information technology, medical services, as well as research and development.
Its competitive investment laws, as well as it some 50,000 students, most of whom are specializing in scientific research are points worth stressing. Irbid has a population of close to one million.
This development area addresses investors from industry and services, as well as developers of service systems, including the hotel industry, gastronomy and other mercantile sectors.
The King Abdullah I Center for Design and Development KADDB
Established in 1999 by royal command, it offers the Jordanian armed forces high quality technical and scientific services. The center provides experts in the research and the development of the defence and general industries, for use by the Jordanian Army as well as civilians. It exports its products to the Near Eastern and North African markets.
The center is internationally recognized because it uses the highest standards of quality in its work and production. It was recognized as the regional center for innovation, and quality of work, production and investment. It offers its highest level scientific and technical services worldwide.
The center is interested in cooperating with international companies in projects in motor construction, electronics, aeronautics, the security industry and in the training and qualifying of workers in this sector.
The Development Strategy of the Railroad lines in Jordan
Jordan has signed international agreements with most of its neighboring states for the development of railroad lines to link the economies of the whole region with each other and facilitate trade. The Jordanian railroad network corresponds to internationally demanded standards. In the meantime, the neighboring countries are working to connect to the Jordanian network with the same standards.
The Project to divert water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea
Jordan plans to meet its drinking water needs, create electricity and preserve the unique landscape of the Dead Sea for future generations with this strategic project of diverting water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. At present, the project is in the stage of testing economic viability and biological impact. The final reports are due at the end of next year. By diverting 1,900 million m3 of water from the Red Sea, the project would stabilize the water level of the Dead Sea, which is endangered through the loss of inflowing water. In addition, the drinking water needs of the kingdom are to be met with close to 570 million m3 of water. This project means investment opportunities for power companies, for the construction of sea water desalination plants, as well as medical and recreational facilities.
Investments in the areas of renewable energies, education and vocational training
The Kingdom of Jordan is developing its infrastructure and laws governing investment in the area of renewable energies.
A new law investment in the area of renewable energies completely exempts the investor from taxes and duties on earnings from these investments. In addition, it allows the investor to build the whole project, run it and hold it as sole owner.
Jordan is working with friendly countries like Germany on the development of its technical and vocational education and further training. Special attention at the moment is being given to the building sector, tourism and renewable energies.
Jordanian laws offer investment incentives regarding education and further training, including tax exemption. Jordan has the necessary know-how for the development, running and marketing of such projects on local, regional and international levels.