Jordan's King Abdullah sets out prosperity agenda

The monarch is in London speaking at a conference focused on growth and opportunity in Jordan

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: British Prime Minister, Theresa May greets King Abdullah II of Jordan outside number 10 Downing Street on February 28, 2019 in London, England. King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania, met with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, during a private audience at Buckingham Palace this morning. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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In the face of regional turmoil and the "global burden" of the Syrian refugee crisis, Jordan retain its economic and social resilience based on a set of  commonly shared values, King Abdullah II said in a speech in London.

He said there had been no doubt the last few years had been challenging amid a worldwide financial crisis, disrupted trade flows and energy sources. Despite this, however, Jordan remained prosperous and set for an exciting economic future.

"Jordan remains secure, strong and a centrepiece for the values that our world depends on: mutual respect, moderation, steady determination, the dignity of all," the Hashemite ruler said.

He was speaking at a London conference dedicated to transforming Jordan's economic growth and attracting new investment. He was joined by key international figures including interim President of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva and EU Foreign Affairs Representative Federica Mogherini.

The king said the change the country has gone through to improve its infrastructure means “if you haven’t been in Jordan recently, you haven't been in Jordan”. However, the country is actively seeking investment to speed up growth, which has been slow.

"Slow growth cannot take us to the future that we know is possible and it cannot give us the jobs and better lives that my people expect and deserve,” said the king.

He added young Jordanians in particular have a “leading role” to play in the country’s future, addressing the huge number of people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are out of work and not in education. People under 30 make up around 70 per cent of the population, but only  40 per cent of those are in employment. Two thirds of women are outside of the workforce, the OECD estimates.

Addressing business leaders attending the conference directly, he said “ I've met with thousands of young Jordanians at work for our future bilingual computer programmers who have led the region in communications and Arabic internet content; young businesswomen and businessmen building domestic, regional, and global markets; young scientists leading the way at the Middle East’s first particle accelerator; and many, many other young leaders and innovators.

“They are ready for you.”

Ten young people selected by Jordan’s Crown Prince Foundation attended the conference, speaking on issues of unemployment and lack of prospects.

They will present a position paper asking their government and international investors for job creation and a better transport network to enable young Jordanians to travel to work as well as initiatives to teach English and business skills.

The king said there was “no question” the last few years had been challenging for the country, contributing to the country’s economic stagnation and huge national debt.

“Jordan’s commitment to reform was showing success when we, like many others, were hit by the global financial crisis and multiple shocks to global energy prices and sources.”