By Staff writer
King Abdullah II says Jordan has stable economy, world-class workforce to overcome regional troubles
Jordan's King Abdullah II has sought to reassure investors that his country has a stable economy and is a safe place to put their capital, ahead of the World Economic Forum Middle East & North Africa which starts at the Dead Sea on Thursday.
In an interview with CNBC’s Middle East correspondent Hadley Gamble, the monarch said Jordan's economy had done "extremely well" considering the unrest in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
"I think we have a history over many decades of Jordan always being stable throughout the region, whatever the crises are, and you have got to remember that with everything that is going on around us, Jordan has done extremely well," he said.
"We have had growth of over 3 percent the past couple of years and we are expecting 4 percent over the next two or three. Our reserves in the Central Bank are the highest they have ever been."
Asked why entrepreneurs and investors would choose Jordan instead of Dubai, traditionally one of the most popular investment destinations in the Middle East, King Abdullah said his country has always been successful in investing into human capital.
"That’s always been our export and, if anything, my ideal long-term vision is to bring that export back into Jordan. Many countries in the region are supported by the Jordanian human talent. That’s the capital that we have. And I think that’s what sets us apart from other countries."
He said in ICT, 70-75 percent of the Arab content is actually out of Jordan while the country is also strong for medical tourism.
"It all comes back to the Jordanian talent. And because it is homegrown, and not imported, I think that is what differentiates Jordan from other countries," he added.
"So when partners come from outside to invest in Jordan, then they have the Jordanian partner, which is a very solid, young, tech-savvy partner to be able to invest in. I think that is what differentiates Jordan from many countries in the region."
King Abdullah II also highlighted the Iraq market, saying that the Iraqi Government, with the coalition forces, are going to open the route between Amman and Baghdad this summer. "That is a very strong market that is going to be reopened," he told CNBC.
Asked about the challenges posed by refugees which comprise 20 percent of Jordan's population and its impact on resources, the king hailed the support from the international community.
"I think that most people don’t understand that 85 percent of the refugees are not in the refugee camps, they are actually outside; and so that’s a burden on the Jordanian economy. Almost 25 percent of the GDP is then a burden that we have to take care of looking after the refugees. That does create a bit more of a challenge," he said.
He also highlighted Jordan's moves into renewable energy to cope with domestic demand for power.
"Because of the lack of gas that we get from Egypt, we have had to move quickly. This is has always been a secret of Jordan, being able to adapt to all the challenges that we have had. And that’s why you are seeing a major investment into alternative energy. You are going to see a huge jump in renewables for Jordan in the very near future.
"We are the first country, definitely in the region, where the Government, we at the Royal Court, are starting it and most Government institutions, and military/security, are all going for administrational vehicles, all electric."
He added that all 3,000 schools in Jordan will all be on renewable energy in the next two years.
Asked where he saw Jordan in 10 years time, King Abdullah II said it will "always be pushing the envelope when it comes to new technology".
"So, the digital age is where I think Jordan is going to capitalise because we have a very young population, a very educated population. And so I think Jordan continues to be the centre of ideas and development, whether it is into film-making and other technologies that are coming out.
"We do apps, app competitions for high school students. I think we are the only country in the Middle East that does that. I think that’s indicative of how we continue to invest into the younger generation, so that they are two steps ahead of everyone else."