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Royal Hashemite Court (Jordan)

King: Next challenge is to create sustainable work opportunities for Jordanians
Amman, 18 December 2012

The challenge facing the country now is creating sustainable work opportunities, especially for the youth, His Majesty King Abdullah said on Tuesday.

During a visit to the Economic and Social Council (ESC) and meeting with its members, King Abdullah added that women should be empowered and given a better chance to participate in the comprehensive development process.

His Majesty emphasised the importance of the council as a neutral and experienced entity that provides the government and civil society institutions with recommendations and solutions to the economic and social challenges Jordan is facing.

The King voiced his optimism about the future, in spite of economic challenges the Kingdom is currently facing.

“We have a lot of work to do, and there are some difficulties. However, cooperation and collaboration will make 2013 a better year.”

The King urged the council to plan for the future, and not limit its work to the current phase the Kingdom is going through.

His Majesty emphasised the importance of planning for the next 10 years, by contributing to the strategies and plans that tackle poverty, unemployment and job generation, in addition to focusing on the development of governorates outside the capital.

“This is where you come in, to assess the existing policies and laws that deal with employment and provide the government with sustainable solutions and recommendations.”

To be up to the challenges of the coming crucial stage, the ESC has to revisit its mechanisms of work and policies, the King said.

His Majesty noted that since a new parliament and government will be formed, it is necessary for the council to establish cooperation with all political parties representing the right, left and centre, including opposition groups that brace a constructive approach, adding that economic and political reforms go hand in hand and require institutionalised dialogue.

The King also called on the council to use dialogue as a component of the evaluation and assessment process targeting laws and policies, in partnership with the private sector. Dialogue is also a feasible tool for the ESC when it examines the social impact of government decisions, His Majesty told his audience, which also included senior officials and top Royal Court staff.

He urged the council to communicate with the public “from the field,” and visit all governorates to get a firsthand look at the situation “on the ground,” and to use the input as a basis for future recommendations.

For his part, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour stressed that there is constant communication between the government and the council when social and economic issues of national concern are on the table.

He added that the government takes all the council’s observations into consideration in its decision-making process.

ESC President Jawad Anani outlined the council’s achievements over the past three years, which included preparing a comprehensive report on Jordan’s key issues and suggested solutions.

He highlighted the council’s role in reaching consensus over government decisions among the public and private sectors, civil society institutions and labourers through ESC’s four committees.

Every Monday the council hosts official figures to discuss key issues such as the envisioned income tax law, investment promotion, consumer protection and campus violence, Anani said.

He pointed out that the ESC, upon the King’s directives, is conducting several studies on problems like slums in Aqaba Governorate and local labourers’ reluctance to take on jobs in the agriculture sector in Mafraq.

The ESC is working to establish economic and social councils resembling Euro-Mediterranean councils in all Arab countries, foremost of which are Palestine, Yemen and Oman, Anani said, adding that the council is cooperating with the Spanish Economic and Social Council to implement a study on tax behaviour and unjustified public spending.

He indicated that the advisory body plans to hold a conference that will bring together Jordanian investors inside the Kingdom and abroad, along with Arab investors, particularly those from the Gulf States, to discuss prospects of improving the investment environment in Jordan.

Speaking at the meeting, Izzat Jaradat, head of the council’s first group, which is concerned with government work, said the ESC seeks to set up indicators for a national database that encompasses government activities and uses information from the 2004 general population and housing census.

Jaradat added that the council is interested in coming up with an approach to enhance the service packages in education, healthcare and social care, to benefit a wider scope of society.

He noted that the ESC is also working on addressing distortions in taxation policies, combating tax evasion and increasing the private sector’s contribution to economic development.

Nazzal Armouti, head of the second group, which represent employers, called for more cohesion between the public and private sectors and the institutionalisation of their partnership to enable the ESC to play its part effectively, especially when it comes to laws and policies and their impact on society as a whole.

Armouti commended the King’s efforts in enhancing the national integrity system and fighting corruption, highlighting the positive effects of such initiatives on the Kingdom’s investor-friendly environment, since foreign investors care more about security, integrity and justice than about tax exemptions.

He stressed the need to pay more attention to vocational training and the Governorates Development Fund, calling these two elements a “national lifeline” to provide job opportunities for the human resources that join the job market every year.

Also during the meeting, Hani Hourani, head of the council’s group that includes leaders of civil society institutions, commended the King’s meetings with representatives of grass-roots and youth movements and his calls to encourage them to engage in mainstream political action.

Hourani stressed the need to empower women and increase their contribution to family support, calling for drawing long-term and short-term strategies that transform Jordan from a rentier state into a productive economy that promotes independence and sustainability.

Mazen Maaytah, head of the labour representatives group, said the council is the right place for dialogue involving the government, the private sector and labourers, noting that workers are the segment most affected by positive or negative economic changes.

Maaytah added that the ESC helps produce stable policies and strategies and provide counsel for decision makers in economic and political legislation, calling for further support to the body from the legislative and executive authorities.

Representative of the council’s Economic Policies Committee, Ahmad Armoush, said at the meeting that the private sector’s involvement in the decision-making process is still below expectations, stressing the need to involve local companies in mega-projects.

Armoush commended the government’s austerity policies and plans to address distortions in the budget, urging the private sector to adopt similar programmes to cut expenditures and encourage investments.

Head of the ESC’s social policies panel Musa Shteiwi called for a policy document that addresses youths, education and labour issues and invites further participation from young people in society.

He stressed the need to assess the social effect of government decisions before taking them, calling for moving ahead with social reform in parallel with economic and political reform.

The ESC was decreed in October 2007 and was established in July 2009 with the objective of acting as an advisory body to the government on economic and social issues and policies, according to its official website.

The ESC has the mandate to advise the executive body on the outlines of economic and social policies. It is made up of experts from industry and academia.

“The ESC works to promote social dialogue on matters that concern Jordanian citizens such as income distribution, unemployment and education,” according to the website.

The ESC is the “first official” and institutionalised forum for the promotion of social dialogue and tripartite policy discussions in Jordan, according to the council’s website.