In an effort to prevent the kind of unrest currently engulfing Tunisia, the government of Jordan has unveiled a $230-million economic package to help the nation’s poor by cutting the prices of essential consumer goods and by creating jobs.
Prime Minister Samir Rifai said that another $280-million will be used to battle poverty and establish development projects in underprivileged areas.
The measures are aimed to help minimize the impact of economic problems on Jordanians in light of soaring international prices, Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said.
Fears have grown that the strife seen in Tunisia could spill over to other nations in North Africa and Middle East which have similar problems (namely high joblessness, rising food prices and political repression). Thus far, such worries have been premature, although Algeria and Egypt have reported some disturbances.
In the meantime, Jordan is taking a pre-emptive measure. Although Jordan is a small country of only 6-million people, it has high unemployment (11.9 percent as of fourth quarter 2010) and poverty rates. Plus, more than 50 percent of its population is below the age of 25.
Jordan's King Abdullah II has emphasized that basic goods should be available at the lowest possible prices.
Since Prime Minister Rifai assumed power in November 2009 he began certain economic reforms which ultimately led to the easing of subsidies on basic commodities and the increase in fuel prices.
Now, he seems to be reversing those measures.
We are a country that has been adopting a market economy for decades, he said.
The Jordanian government and the IMF both agree that the nation’s economy is expected to grow its economy by 3.4 percent this year