Jordan — January 2008

Sociopolitical situation

The new 27-member government headed by Nader Dahabi was sworn in before King Abdullah II and held its first cabinet meeting. The new government’s agenda will focus on economic and social priorities, as they are the main pillars for social security and stability.

The latest report of the Economist Intelligence Unit indicates the cost of living in Amman is the highest in the Arab world and 70th globally. Amman’s ranking is logical and reflects the unprecedented increase in prices over the past few years.

In the year 2008, the government will lift oil subsidies totally, and the pricing of fuel derivatives will follow a specific mechanism based on international oil prices, taking into consideration freight and handling costs. The pricing will take place on a monthly basis.

Observers believe that the economic policies adopted by the government, namely deregulation, have increased poverty levels.

Unofficial statistics maintain that the percentage of Jordanians who live under the poverty line exceeds 40 percent of the population. A total of 36.4 percent of children are employed in various vocations, with the majority coming from d

isadvantaged backgrounds. Large families together with slow economic growth and progressive migration from rural to urban areas are main reasons for the increased number of poor people.

A survey carried out in May 2007 by the Norwegian Research Institute FAFO, in cooperation with the Department of Statistics, cites between 450,000 and 500,000 Iraqi residents in Jordan. The survey showed that the vast majority, 68 percent, were Sunni Muslims; 17 percent were Shiite Muslims and 12 percent Christians. The survey also said that the majority of Iraqis residing in Amman originated in Baghdad, which reflects the geographic pattern of violence and insecurity.

Jordan has recently dropped a residency requirement to accept into its schools at least 40,000 Iraqi children. Amid concerns that the wave of new students could overburden the system, a two-shift system involving morning and afternoon classes, especially in areas dominated by Iraqi refugees, has been created. One official noted that “the Iraqi guests cost the country $1 billion annually. ”

Religious situation

Finally, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III, won the approval of the Israeli government, putting an end to a lengthy international saga with religious, political and financial complications. The patriarch had accused Israel of not recognizing him in an effort to force his support for the lease of church-owned property; he will not recognize any land deals signed by his predecessor. The Israeli cabinet vote of 10 to 3 seems to have put an end to this drama.

Father Yasser Ayyash was elected by the Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Bishops and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI as Archbishop of Petra, Philadelphia and all Transjordan, the first native Jordanian to hold this office.

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