At the Economic Club of New York
New York, US
14 September 2005
Thank you, Barbara. I'm honoured to join all of you today. Over the years, this club has hosted important discussions of our global future. I hope that, today, together, we can contribute to that dialogue.
Our century is one of great economic potential. But we cannot take a better future for granted. The violent extremists of 9/11 and recent terror attacks have a very different vision. They have launched a direct attack on the trust and confidence that global life depends on. Theirs is an anti-democratic, anti-economic-growth and anti-progress agenda.
Our response must be united – and comprehensive. We must firmly reject the clash of civilisations that extremists seek. And we must take action on every level – not just military, but economic, political, and social, as well.
Today, billions of people, including the Muslim world and the West, depend on what we do to create a strong, inclusive global economy. Our cooperation and dialogue are not just idealistic goals – they are critical strategies for advancement. Indeed, to the extent that extremists recruit from those who have lost hope, especially the world's youth, it's urgent we succeed.
In this effort, all countries have responsibilities. In our region, Jordan has taken a lead in promoting development, peace and reform. We've focused on three priorities: good governance, which makes people stakeholders in their future, opportunity-rich economies, which can create jobs and economic growth, and peace, to end conflict and instability. We have backed these goals with concrete, practical initiatives that can be benchmarked, monitored and followed up.
This spring, a new government came on board to move up the pace of our efforts. A National Agenda Committee involving stakeholders from across society, reports this month on reform priorities for the next 10 years. Our country is also working to decentralise development, establishing local councils that will oversee local priorities.
To grow the economy, Jordan has streamlined the development process and targeted export-oriented investment. As many of you know, we were the first Arab country to have a free trade agreement with the U.S., and we have an Association Agreement with the European Union. We are privatising important sectors like telecommunications, mining and power generation. And there are new investment opportunities in emerging sectors – financial services, tourism and manufacturing.
We know that the talent of our people drives Jordan's future. And we have made a strong investment in our youth. Beginning early, Jordanian students learn the tools and language of the international economy – IT and English. Higher curriculum standards are deepening learning and encouraging creative thinking. International studies rank our country first in the region for educational reform.
These and other initiatives have had measurable, positive results. Let me share a few of the numbers. GDP growth reached 7.5 percent in 2004, and 7.7 percent in the first quarter of this year. The national budget deficit is down. So is external debt. Foreign currency reserves are up, to almost $5 billion. Exports to the US are over $1 billion – up from $13 million in 1999. Total exports last year reached $3.3 billion – double what they were in 1999. And there is significantly greater market capitalisation in the Amman Stock Exchange – over $36 billion today, from $5 billion in the year 2000.
These results reflect the important role of the private sector in creating prosperity. But in a world that is globalising fast, markets can't be limited to one country alone. To address this issue, we have spearheaded a new, global forum for emerging markets. It will be held at the Dead Sea, once a year, starting next April. The forum will allow institutions and businesses to share knowledge and build partnerships, leveraging their strengths and identifying value for global stakeholders. We are working closely with global business leaders to create this new forum. And we certainly invite your interest and participation.
Jordan has moved forward strongly, despite regional conflict and instability. But we are realistic: for our entire region, and the world, long-term progress depends on peace. We are strongly committed to a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict: two states – a viable, independent Palestine, living beside a secure Israel. We are also working to help the Iraqi people build a future. Two months ago, we hosted a major donor conference to organise international support.
Beyond the region, there is an important larger arena as well. To advance global peace, we must counter the extremism that would divide the world into hostile camps. That requires outreach on all sides. Two days ago, my wife Rania and I were honoured to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. Here in the U.S., I am speaking this week with Christians, Muslims and Jews. Our religions have shared roots – and shared responsibilities. We cannot allow extremism to dictate the dialogue or silence our common humanity.
Jordan is also working with the international Muslim community to oppose extremist interpretations of Islam. Last November, we issued the Amman Message, which articulates the true nature of Islam: its call for tolerance and respect for others, the equal dignity of all people and the pursuit of peace. We followed this up with the first International Islamic Conference in Amman this past July. One hundred and eighty leading Muslim scholars from 45 countries affirmed the Amman Message and took measures to end abuses of our faith. Their voices are part of a global effort by traditional, orthodox, moderate Muslims, to reclaim Islam from the violent few who have tried to hijack it.
We are continuing to work with Islamic scholars and organisations and Islamic leaders of vision, like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. We are planning major initiatives in education and in media strategy. All of this is key to the future of the world.
Global prosperity does not take place in a vacuum. Justice and peace, freedom and moral values, will shape the environment for global economic development and growth. I believe in having a clear endgame: results that will deliver what people need. It will take all of us, working together. God willing, we can make the promise real.
Thank you very much.