Jordan — June 2008

Sociopolitical Situation

Jordan’s current economic troubles are, in large part, the result of external factors, particularly the recent spike in the price of oil and other basic commodities in the global market. The Jordanian government worries that, if the trend continues, overall economic growth will slow down, inflation will rise to double-digit figures and the budget deficit — already at a record high — will grow even larger. Among ordinary Jordanians, the mood is sour and many fear the country’s high unemployment rate will continue to rise. The Ministry of Finance estimates that the inflation rate will not exceed nine percent in 2008. However, experts at the IMF predict it will reach twelve percent.

The government recently announced that Iraqi nationals residing in Jordan who intend to permanently leave the country would be fully exempt from whatever visa violation fines they may have accumulated while in the country. However, those who intend to remain in Jordan were given until mid-May to resolve issues regarding their resident status, at which point all visa violation fines will be slashed in half.

New visa requirements for Iraqis wishing to enter Jordan officially took effect 1 May. Eligible visa applicants will now have to apply at the international courier TNT post offices in Iraq or through Jordanian diplomatic missions abroad. Applicants will be informed of the government’s response in 10 to 14 working days. Each application will cost $12.50. The new procedures were established in response to a request from the Iraqi government and aim to better regulate the flow of Iraqi citizens into Jordan.

Two recent studies by the International Organization for Migration and International Medical Corps found that over half of the Iraqis living in Jordan suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and are in need of psychiatric care. The instability of refugee life, substandard living conditions, an inability to access to health care and other social services — including education — unemployment and the “de-professionalization” of skilled workers further exacerbates the situation. Evidence indicates that domestic violence among refugees is on the rise. Unable to fulfill their traditional roles as breadwinners, many men become violent with their wives and family. Out of work or school and with few opportunities to engage in social activities, many refugees have developed difficulties managing their anger and frustration.

Jordan and Iraq are jointly developing several schemes to enhance bilateral economic cooperation, chief among which is a free trade agreement that, if signed, would replace current trade agreements.

Jordan expressed willingness to extend technical support to Iraq. For its part, Iraq stressed its readiness to remove any obstacles impeding the strengthening of economic ties between the two countries. At present, a number of Iraqi companies and government agencies owe money to various entities in Jordan’s private sector.

Religious Situation

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, officially retires on 21 June. In a pastoral letter, the patriarch expressed his sincere gratitude to his parishioners, priests and all those he has worked with during his 20 years as patriarch. Archbishop Fouad Twal is his successor.

Pope Benedict XVI named Father Dr. Ghaleb Moussa Bader Metropolitan Archbishop of Alger. The 56-year-old priest was born in Wahadneh, Jordan, and ordained in June 1975.

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