Three Gulf states pledge $2.5 billion in aid to Jordan
LONDON - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have offered $2.5 billion in aid for Jordan to ease its economic crisis following a wave of anti-austerity protests, the Saudi state media announced.
Jordan has been rocked in recent days by mass protests against price rises and a proposed tax hike as the government pushes measures to slash the country’s debt, leading to the prime minister’s resignation.
A four-nation summit in the holy city of Mecca, hosted by Saudi King Salman, offered Amman a bailout in the form of a deposit in the Jordanian central bank, cover World Bank guarantees for the kingdom, offer budget support over five years as well as finance other development projects.
“In light of the close brotherly ties… it was agreed that the three countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait) would provide an economic aid package to Jordan totalling $2.5 billion,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The crucial summit was attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who offered his gratitude to the three countries, adding the package will “contribute to overcoming the crisis”, according to SPA.
The announcement comes after European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday announced 20 million euros ($23.5 million) in aid for Jordan.
Amman also receives over $1 billion a year from the United States. Jordan is one of only two Arab nations to have full diplomatic relations with Israel and plays an instrumental role in the region and in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Cash-strapped Jordan, a close US ally that relies heavily on donors, is struggling to curb its debt after securing a $723-million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016.
Austerity measures tied to the IMF loan have seen prices of basic necessities rise across the kingdom — culminating in a week of angry protests over tax proposals that forced Prime Minister Hani Mulki to resign.
The authorities announced on May 7 they were withdrawing the unpopular legislation, but still face a mammoth task to balance popular demands with the need to reduce the public debt burden.
The Gulf aid package appears driven by the desire to avoid a repeat of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, which saw pent-up public anger spilling onto the street across the Middle East, analysts say.
“The speed and the gravity with which the Gulf states are responding is a very clear testament to their concern and determination to nip this unrest in Jordan in the bud,” Lori Boghardt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Agence France-Presse.
“They are going to do all they can to thwart another Arab spring on their doorstep.”
In December 2011, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that is headquartered in Saudi Arabia pledged to give $2.5 billion in aid each to Jordan and Morocco, both of which had been invited to join the regional group that year.
The pledge from the GCC was to last five years. It expired last year and so far the six-member GCC has yet to offer any additional funding as the bloc remains split by a diplomatic crisis with Qatar.
Jordan blames its economic woes on instability rocking the region and the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria, complaining it has not received enough international support.
The World Bank says Jordan has “weak growth prospects” this year, while 18.5 percent of the working age population is unemployed.
(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)