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Economic challenges among Jordan’s major concerns — former PM

By Dana Al Emam - Feb 26,2014 - Last updated at Feb 26,2014

AMMAN — The economy remains Jordan’s biggest concern due to its direct influence on the living conditions of Jordanians, especially the middle class, a senator said on Wednesday.

“Jordan will remain open to all possible energy markets,” Senator Samir Rifai said in a lecture at the University of Jordan, adding that diversifying resources is aimed at cutting down the energy bill.

To avoid the “expected” increase in the Kingdom’s public debt to JD21 billion by the end of this year, Jordan must exert more effort in attracting investments, according to Rifai.

Priority should be given in the state budget to projects that employ large numbers of Jordanians and adopt “real” partnerships with the private sector, the former prime minister noted.

“Increasing taxes and fees, however, will deepen the problem,” he said, adding that the middle class should return to its “pioneering” position.

Addressing Jordan’s internal and external challenges, Rifai stressed the importance of sustaining “open channels of communication” with groups and parties across the political spectrum, urging young Jordanians to participate in political life.

In a step to encourage decentralisation, he suggested the formation of elected local councils in governorates to contribute to the decision-making process.  

Rifai said regional unrest, the lack of solidarity among Arab countries and developments in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are some of the Kingdom’s major external challenges.

“A peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis is not likely to take place anytime soon,” he said, highlighting Jordan’s need for “clearness and decisiveness” in dealing with the issue in a way that halts the influx of refugees to the Kingdom.

Rifai reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to the Palestinian conflict.

“The lack of strong and influential Arab allies to [support] the Palestinians in their attempt to reach a fair settlement and establish an independent Palestinian state… adds to Jordan’s commitment to the historic and ties [with Palestine],” the senator said.

He added that if US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace plans do not succeed, the political arena will witness other efforts to bring about peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

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