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French Version

Encouraging investment amid political turmoil

INVESTMENTS RUN by Jordanian businessmen worldwide are no doubt an ample moneymaker for the Kingdom.

INVESTMENTS RUN by Jordanian businessmen worldwide are no doubt an ample moneymaker for the Kingdom. About JD 9.4 billion in remittances were made by Jordanian expatriates in the past decade, which observers believe will play a key-role in developing business environment in the Kingdom The Central Bank of Jordan estimates expatriate remittances at 25 percent of the Kingdom’s GDP. Last year remittances were worth JD 1.3 billion. This year the observers believe the figure could reach JD 2 million.

A recent survey by the Central Bank showed investments owned by Jordanian and non-Jordanian businessmen increased in the Kingdom by 170 million in the first half of this year to JD 226 million. Jordan’s foreign exports also increased this year by 15 percent. Reserves from hard currencies have made a steady increase over the past 25 years to JD 7 billion in 2000. The conference of Jordanian businessmen and investors in Amman this week revealed different views about chances for investment in Jordan. More than 500 Jordanian businessmen from all over the Arab world, Europe, the US, and other parts of the world took part in the three-day conference The theme of participants was exploration of potential opportunities of investment in the Kingdom.

The conference worked to increase chances of luring Jordanian investments from abroad back home. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Mohammed Halaiqa told participants that his government’s ambition was to pursue an open-market policy that aims to streamline business opportunities with Jordanian investments worldwide. Halaiqa’s words were very firm when he urged the private sector to take the initiative and encourage Jordanian businessmen to come and put their money in the Kingdom. But such an initiative is seems far from materializing because of the potent red-tape policies "Today Jordanian businessmen are more than willing to return home and invest their cash in the Kingdom," said Nayef Al Noubani, a 59-year-old businessman. "Business opportunities will not come easily unless there is true transparency in laws and regulations which convince businessmen to return home," Al Noubani, a resident of UAE since 1976, told The Star.

Al Noubani is responsible for a large company specializing in electric installations. He believes business opportunities in Jordan have developed rapidly over the past 25 years. A number of observers and economists also agree that Jordan is becoming more attractive thanks to its membership in WTO and the Association Agreement with the European Union. "The time has come to translate words into deeds," said Adnan Badran, president of the Philadelphia University in Jordan. Badran’s words were an attribution of Minister of Trade and Industry Wasif Azar’s words in the conference. Azar said the government is determined to find measures to facilitate the cash environment in Jordan.

Badran, a well-known economist, mentioned how the political deterioration in the Middle East for the past few years has hindered businessmen from coming to Jordan and employing their capital in the Kingdom. Badran gave an example of Jordanian investments in Egypt, where they already are doing good business compared to similar investments in Jordan. "Egypt is definitely a bigger market than Jordan. You are talking about 60 million Egyptians who can spend billions of pounds each year on purchases," something unlikely to happen in Jordan. Another businessman, Fathi Al Qaryoutti, is eager to return home and invest his money in the Kingdom. His only excuse for not doing so is his fear of future political deterioration in the Middle East.

However, Al Qaryoutti is now working on a medium-size company in Amman which he hopes will start operations within the coming two or three months. The new company will work in affiliation with its mother company in the Gulf. "Every businessman has the desire to return home. This, however, needs much thinking and patience before making it happen," Al Qaryoutti said. He explained that "time is money and businessmen do not want to invest their money in short-term projects. They want to save every possible penny." As chairman of a large construction company in the Arabian Gulf, Al Qaryoutti believes the government is doing its best to bolster the business environment in the Kingdom. Al Noubani, meanwhile, believes Jordanian businessmen like to invest in foreign markets to make good profits on hard currencies.

"The negative impact of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the continuing UN embargo on Iraq has affected not only Jordan but other countries in the region, including Israel and Egypt," Badran told The Star.

"Businessmen should remind themselves business can flourish in conflict." With this in mind Badran sent an appeal to the government to seriously consider a proposal for establishment of a free trade area with the Palestinian National Authority to support the Palestinian economy and make it easy for investment to prosper between the banks of Jordan River. "Life can_t stop because of the conflict and businesses cannot wait until the conflict ends. I believe economic development must continue simultaneously to make the business environment more feasible."

Ghassan Joha
The Star

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