Jordan to spend $2.3bn on economic improvements and desalination plant

Announcement comes after deadly riots linked to worsening living conditions

The skyline of Jordan's capital Amman.
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Jordan will spend $2.3 billion over the next three years to improve infrastructure and living standards, with a series of projects planned including a seawater desalination plant it hopes will curb its recurring water crisis, the government said on Wednesday.

The proposed spending is part of a plan to revive the economy, made public two weeks after riots broke out in several parts of Jordan to protest against increasingly difficult living conditions. They were among the most deadly in the kingdom in decades.

Among projects in the “executive programme” of the plan, published by the government on its website on Wednesday, is a pipeline to supply Amman with water from a proposed desalinisation plant in the port city of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

Authorities were in discussions with Israel for years about supplying the kingdom with desalinated water but after disagreements between the two sides Jordan said last year it would construct a plant in the kingdom with western help.

Jordan has suffered from a host of environmental problems that have drained its underground water reserves, and it has had long-running disputes with Israel and Syria about sharing water resources. But Israel still provides Jordan with a major part of the kingdom's water needs.

A dedicated bus road in the capital Amman will be expanded and similar new roads will link Amman to Zarqa, Jordan's second city, and to Jerash in the north.

Spending will also go on plans for a proposed new administrative capital east of Amman, and on waste recycling and supplying industrial estates with natural gas.

The government described the programme as a “flexible live document” that will help achieve “sustainable development.”

It did not say how the $2.3 billion would be raised. Officials, however, have hinted that foreign aid will be a major source.

The government said last month that financing issues have delayed implementation of the economic reform plan, which it announced in June.

It aims to create more jobs, expand the middle class and raise living standards in the kingdom, but no projects have been introduced.

Jordan's economy has been stagnant for 12 years and unemployment is officially at about 23 per cent.

The 123-page plan forecasts doubling Jordan's gross domestic product to $82 billion over the next 10 years, with the help of $41 billion in unspecified funding and investment.

One million young people are expected to enter the workforce over this period.

A third of Jordan's 10 million population are under the age of 14 and overall income per head is $4,200.

The government expects 5 per cent inflation this year compared with 2 per cent last year. It describes inflation as relatively low compared with other countries.

But rising fuel costs prompted demonstrations and riots earlier this month, mainly in the southern governorate of Maan, where trucking is a main source of scarce, non-governmental jobs.

Four police personnel were killed before the unrest subsided.

Updated: June 19, 2023, 12:16 PM