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French Version

Poverty and Unemployment : Ugly faces of society ?

Deputizing for His Majesty King Abdallah, Prime Minister Faisal El Fayez patronized on Monday “the National Conference for Combating Poverty and Unemployment”. Fayez said that the government implements the Royal vision in combating poverty to achieve economic accomplishments with a view to create job opportunities and fight unemployment.

The Premier affirmed that holding the conference reflects the government’s keenness to find new mechanisms, based on real studies, to fight poverty and unemployment. “We meet today to discuss the new methods and mechanisms to fight poverty and unemployment,” said Fayez, who also stressed that the conference should take into account recommendations of the previous conference. “We will conduct specialized studies to inspect the features of poverty in order to take the suitable procedures in this regard,” Fayez noted.

The premier announced that by the virtue of His Majesty King Abdallah’s directives to achieve high growth rates, we achieved in the first quarter of 2004 a 7.6 percent growth rate. Fayez noted that this growth included most of the productive economic sectors. The government conducted surveys to determine the extent of poverty and unemployment and prepared a study with the help of local and international experts to measure the actual volume of poverty, according to Fayez. According to the study, the level of poverty in the Kingdom receded from 21.3 percent in 1997 to 14.2 percent in 2002, proving that a reduction of the poverty level is feasible.

In addition, Fayez called on participants in the conference to form a committee to follow up the implementation of the conference recommendations. In answering The Star, Fayez vowed to uproot this problem by delving deep to determine the causes that he classified as constituting the top national priority problem. He confirmed the importance of investment in education as one of the most powerful eradicators of poverty by developing vocational training programmes which would meet the demands of the labor market.

On the other hand, Minister of Labor Amjad Majali delivered a speech in which he noted that the conference would be an important step to institutionalize a comprehensive national effort to fight poverty and unemployment. “The conference will raise various issues on the state and size of poverty and unemployment as well as the current projects and their contributions to combating these two issues,” Majali added. Anas Saket, president of the General Federation of Jordanian Women (GFJW) said, “The national responsibility to deal with poverty should not be shouldered by the government alone; it should be tackled by the society as a whole, and the NGOs in particular.” She indicated that unemployment has a dire effect on the advancement of women in society. “The rise in unemployment and growing poverty are threatening Jordan’s economy in general and women in particular, as it is well known poverty has a face of a woman.

To help counter these trends and to wider women participation in the economy, the GFJW initiated its support for microfinance as a means for creating economic and employment opportunities to the disadvantaged in the society. The role of microfinance could never be ignored, mainly its crucial role in the development of societies”. Member of the Lower House of Parliament, Adab Saoud, said, “A promise had been made by the government to hold the conference which was a clear indicator of the government’s resolve to find new and practical mechanisms to deal with this painful problem of poverty.

Low income rather than unemployment is the major cause of poverty officially estimated at more than 30 per cent of the country’s 5 million population.” She called on the conference to come out with real solutions for this issue. “No more strategies are needed; but what is needed now is to implement these strategies and to find practical solutions to the problem that is hard-hitting the country,” stated Saoud. The strategy, which proposes a variety of programmes to upgrade health, education and capacity-building opportunities for the less privileged, also builds upon existing national initiatives for poverty reduction.

Jordan’s National Strategy for Poverty Alleviation which was launched on May 23, 2002 by the then Minister of Social Development, Tamam Ghul, was described as the country’s new comprehensive strategy in the aim of adopting a multi-sectoral approach to improving living conditions for the destitute and near poor. Ghul said, “Over half a million Jordanians wake up each day in poverty.

The strategy devised by various national and international governmental and NGOs, is expected to provide a new antidote to the country’s staggering poverty problem and presenting aims to reduce the number of children growing up in poverty, the number of senior citizens living their last years in poverty, the number of families struggling while working, yet unsuccessful in making ends meet.” Abu Jamal has 4 children: Two daughters, and two sons. His two older daughters are handicapped.

He works as an operator in a company for 250 JD, supports his mother and his handicapped sister as well. His salary supports all eight household members, which is not enough for the basic needs at all. “Just look around you. You’ll have the answers,” the despondent man lamented. The situation of Abu Jamal and his family is not unique.

Abu Ashraf has 8 children, 5 daughters, and 3 sons. His health and age prevent him from working. Abu Ashraf’s wife, Umm Ashraf is the family breadwinner. She earns JD 80 a month. The situation of Abu Ashraf and his family is also not unique. Hundreds in their village live similar lives. Hundreds of thousands across Jordan share the same deprivation and destitution. The news that poverty is on the decline is certainly good news. But in the final analysis, what is found in the pantries of most Jordanian households speak otherwise.

Maha Al Sharif
The Star

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