Jordan — January 2010

Sociopolitical Situation

King Abdullah named Samir Rifai as prime minister and instructed him to form a new cabinet. The new 29-member government was sworn in before the king on 14 December. This is the 72nd cabinet in the country’s history and the seventh since the king ascended the throne. The new government is made up of 16 new ministers and 13 who served in the previous government.

A crucial policy document issued by the Higher Population Council (HPC) highlighted the policies the kingdom needs to follow in order to benefit from what is known worldwide as a “population opportunity.” The HPC concluded that the Jordanian government has to educate Jordanians to have fewer children and reduce the current fertility rate from 3.6 children to about 2.1 per woman. The council also found it equally important to include more women in the workforce, increasing it from 14 to 25%; decrease immediately the rate of female dependency; and redress the imbalance in their economic output. If these policy goals are achieved (together with vocational training to increase the rate of employment), a growing number of Jordanian workers will be saving more of their earnings by 2030.

Jordan is ranked the fourth water-poorest nation in the world; climate change has already caused a 30% reduction in the kingdom’s available water resources. Experts note that even if current rainfall levels increase by 20%, it will not compensate for the water lost due to the expected rise in temperatures. Jordan’s agriculture and livestock sector are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Disi Water Conveyance and the Red-Dead Sea Canal projects—conceived as partial solutions to this alarming issue—need to be implemented as soon as possible.

Due to financial difficulties, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will no longer cover medical treatment costs of registered Palestinians at private Jordanian hospitals. The agency used to pay up to 75% for emergency and critical cases. It is noteworthy to add that 93% of all hospitalization cases at refugee camps were referred by UNRWA to public hospitals, but those cases treated at private hospitals accounted for 30% of the budget allocated for medical services.

In Jordan, cancer kills 13% of the population; the figure is expected to double over the next decade. The nature of germ infections among cancer patients in Jordan is different from those spreading around the world. This highlights the importance of sharing experiences to limit deaths resulting from infections.

The annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shows that Jordan is the fifth-largest host country to UNHCR cases. It is home to about 500,000 Iraqis, 46,678 of whom are recognized as refugees registered with the UNHCR (this is down from 52,900 recorded at the end of 2008). The report does not include the presence of 1.9 million Palestinian refugees residing in Jordan. Approximately 5,421 Iraqis have been accepted for resettlement during the first 10 months of 2009 in the United States; 637 in Germany; 550 in Great Britain; and 473 in Canada.

Although repatriation is considered the “largest durable solution for refugees,” the numbers of Iraqi refugees returning to the land of their birth has reached its second lowest level in 15 years. This has placed a burden on the kingdom as well as other host countries across the region. Jordan has extended public health care to Iraqis and now permits Iraqi children to attend public schools.

Religious Situation

Princess Basma highlighted the importance of interfaith dialogue at the opening of the 2nd Convention for Episcopal Women in the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. She said that the region, which is the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, is a symbol of the spirit of interfaith harmony, benevolence and mutual respect. Jordanians, Christians and Muslims alike, are proud of their Arab identity and believe that both Christianity and Islam are an inseparable part of their cultural heritage from which they draw great strength.

“There were no reports that the practice of any faith was prohibited in the kingdom, no reports of misuse or neglect of the kingdom’s diverse religious sites, as well as no reports of harassment, discrimination or restrictions to worshipers” according to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2009, which stresses that “prominent societal leaders and members of the royal family continued to take steps to promote religious freedom.” The report also referred to Christian-Muslim relations in Jordan as “good.”

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