Jordan sweeps up investment from international partners and businesses at growth conference

Omar Razzaz and King Abdullah of Jordan addressed businesses and politicians at a London conference to stimulate growth

Jordan's King Abdullah met with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Reuters

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz has praised an influx of international investment and business deals for Jordan at a London economic development conference.

He appeared alongside King Abdullah of Jordan, British Prime Minister Theresa May and senior officials from the US and GCC at the event to stimulate growth in the country.

Mr Razzaz signalled his hope for a fresh start for the debt-ridden nation which had struggled to recover from the 2008 financial crash and continues to deal with the fall out of two wars on its borders.

“Lots of good news coming today,” he said of pledges of international investment and new business partnerships agreed at Thursday’s Jordan: Growth and Opportunity conference held in London, “and a declaration from all of us I guess, that the period where we're haunted by 'how do we manage this crisis' is behind us. “

Jordan has been working hard to implement the IMF’s recommended changes, leading to pushback from the Jordanian people as taxes were raised and austerity measures put in place.

Both the IMF and World Bank have praised the government’s commitment to reform, particularly changes to the procurement system to fight corruption, taking measures to encourage women and refugees into employment through online working in Jordan and making the labour market more accessible to those from outside Jordan.

"It is wonderful to be able to talk about reforms already done, not just promising to reform" Interim World Bank CEO Kristiana Georgieva said. "Jordan is taking fairly difficult steps.”

The conference saw both bilateral and multilateral commitments from the UK and EU,  including the UK underwriting a $250m loan from the World Bank and providing £25m for education.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) also announced it would be opening a new office in Amman to oversee the $1bn investment it planned to make in the next two years. The office, said EIB President Werner Hoyer, “will play a key role in bringing the EU bank’s contribution to carry out the country’s efforts and vision”.

The EIB cash injection will primarily go towards fresh water and sanitation projects, helping to build Jordan’s burgeoning renewable energy sector and fostering small and medium enterprises.

The conference’s objective was to attract not only investment from international governments, but to secure business deals from international businesses. Theresa May underlined her post-Brexit policy of pursuing private sector investment to boost aid funding in her speech to delegates.

“The extent of collective international support for Jordan has been clear from the commitments we have seen and heard today from governments,” she said at the closing of the conference.

“But we have to remember that the private sector will be the key to catalysing Jordan’s economic transformation. As governments we can create the frameworks and environments which foster economic growth, but private investment is what will make the real difference.”

British businesses secured a few deals with the Jordanian government on Thursday which included training to ensure Jordanians will be equipped to fill the posts created.

Jaguar Land Rover announced it would create the first regional apprenticeship training academy for high-skilled car mechanics, a move which will train 48 people per year.

Lyndon Water signed a deal to bring its desalination techniques to Jordan’s fish farming and agricultural sectors, creating 200 jobs and the Creative Group signed two memorandums of understanding for a new recreation centre and international sports city in Aqaba, creating a further 400.

The UK’s International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox lauded the new deals, saying “The UK is an ambitious trading nation. These commercial agreements demonstrate the already close trade and investment links between the UK and Jordan, supporting HM King Abdullah II’s ambitious vision for reform and long-term, sustainable growth.”

Jordan and the UK will be anxious to keep up momentum of British and international businesses expressing interest in the country. Jordan, the UK and EU partners will meet again in two weeks in Brussels to discuss how to end the conflict in Syria and ensure the safety of refugees.