King Abdullah says world needs ‘strong and prosperous’ Jordan

King Abdullah says world needs ‘strong and prosperous’ Jordan

LONDON: King Abdullah of Jordan said on Thursday that the world understands the need for his country to be “strong and prosperous.”

Speaking at an international conference in London to support investment in the kingdom, he said the recent years had been “exceptionally challenging.”

The king said regional turmoil, the Syrian refugee crisis, global financial crash and high energy prices had hampered the success of Jordan’s reforms.

“Yet, throughout these challenges, Jordan remained secure, strong, and a centrepiece for the values that our world depends on,” King Abdullah told delegates at the Jordan: Growth and Opportunity conference.

“Your participation at this conference sends a clear message that the world understands the importance of a strong and prosperous Jordan.”

After meeting the king at Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May set out an increased UK aid package to help Jordan’s economy become more self-sufficient.

The move takes the UK’s bilateral support to Jordan up to £650 million ($860 million) over five years. The UK will also underwrite a $250 million World Bank loan to Jordan.

The European Investment Bank said it would  extend €870 million ($990 million) of loans and grants for the next two years to support infrastructure and the development of the private sector.

May called on CEOs and international partners to step up their investment in Jordan.

“Jordan has a robust and realistic strategy to bring about change,” May said. “Coming together today provides us with the opportunity to shore up and transform Jordan’s economy, work together to tackle instability, and create an attractive environment for investment that can benefit not just Jordan but all of us now and in the future.”

UK Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt told Arab News that the conference showed how Jordan is “meeting its economic challenges.”

The conference was attended by Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interim President of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva and EU Foreign Affairs Representative Federica Mogherini.

Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan told delegates the world is telling Jordan that “we are with you and we will support you, particularly the GCC countries and what they doing in relation to this.”

Jordan is one of the closest allies for Western countries in the Middle East and seen as a key partner in trade and security.

It is viewed as one of the most stable and tolerant countries in the region, having weathered the last 10 years of turmoil in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Yet the country’s economy has come under severe strain with tough austerity measures pushed by the International Monetary Fund to reduce public debt.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz said his country’s economy has begun to strengthen.

“The fundamentals of the economy are all starting to look better,” Al-Razzaz told Reuters.  “Jordan has done everything it can on the fiscal front to allow for growth to happen.”

King Abdullah’s close connections to Britain were reflected by a private audience for himself and his wife Queen Rania with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

“Jordan and the UK are like old friends who have learnt over the years they can count on each other whatever the weather,” the king said.

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