AMMAN, JORDAN — I love the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, her people, and her monarch.

But I’m genuinely worried for them all.

For the past several days, I’ve been crisscrossing Jordan, meeting with businesspeople, pastors, Syrian refugees, NGO leaders, and even U.S. Ambassador Henry Wooster.

No one wanted to speak on the record.

But the message I heard was clear and unanimous: the magnitude of the economic crisis Jordan faces is real and increasingly dangerous.

 

(Photo: ALL ARAB NEWS)

 

HOW BAD IS IT?

Here are the sobering facts:

To be sure, Jordan’s military, intelligence and border security forces are among the best in the region.

Thus, I don’t see any external threat that poses an existential danger to Jordan, despite numerous regional challenges from Iranian forces in Syria and various Islamist terrorist groups.

That said, I do fear that if unchecked, massive unemployment — combined with high gas prices, and serious and systemic poverty in various regions of the country — could lead to an explosion of anger and widespread instability.

Especially among young people.

After all, some 60% of Jordan’s population is under 30 years old.

They don’t want Jordan to implode like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

But if they don’t have access to good-paying jobs — or real hope for their future — what will prevent a social explosion of the kind we saw throughout the region during so-called Arab Spring?

 

(Photo: ALL ARAB NEWS)

 

JORDAN’S NEW ECONOMIC PLAN — IS IT ENOUGH?

Seeing the danger, King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh yesterday unveiled a new economic modernization plan at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre along the Dead Sea.

The Royal Court says the plan will create 1 million new jobs over the next 10 years through 366 specific initiatives.

“The government will do whatever is necessary despite the challenges facing Jordan,” said the prime minister. “The plan and vision are feasible and it is everyone’s responsibility, whether the government or the private sector.”

Will the new plan succeed?

Can Jordan attract sufficient foreign direct investment to create enough jobs to drive down the unemployment rate and give young people confidence in Jordan’s future?

I hope so — but it is simply far too early to say.

 

(Photo: Jordan’s Petra news agency)

 

DANGER AHEAD — AND THE CLOCK IS TICKING

Overwhelmed by 1.3 million Syrian refugees needing safe refuge, food, housing, education and jobs, the situation in the oil-less, resource-poor kingdom was bad enough before the COVID pandemic.

The COVID lockdown then exacerbated every structural problem.

As I wrote in my recent book, “ENEMIES AND ALLIES,” Jordan’s king is “sitting on a volcano, surrounded by a forest fire, fearing an earthquake.”

Massive unemployment and deepening despair could trigger the very political “earthquake” that could cause the volcano to blow.

 

(Photo: ALL ARAB NEWS)

 

I am praying earnestly that the King and the prime minister have the wisdom to chart a truly effective pro-growth path forward, inspire and unleash a new generation of Jordanian entrepreneurs, and attract enough foreign banks and businesses to invest in Jordan’s future.

Because the clock is ticking.

And failure could prove catastrophic.

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