AMMAN — A very small country that can be driven across in five hours, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a major trading and investment hub in the Middle East, as well as very well connected to its neighboring countries of Syria, Israel, Palestinian territories, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The country prides itself on attracting investors from every corner of the globe, and infrastructure in Jordan appeals to companies and businesses around the world.
Structural Reforms and Refugees
According to the World Bank, in the last 10 years the government of Jordan has pursued structural reforms in improving education and health while also buttressing its social protection systems. However, Jordan is also very susceptible to geopolitical turmoil due to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and growing instability in the Middle East. An unexpected refugee overflow, disruption of trade routes and shrinking tourism has taken a heavy toll on the improvement of infrastructure in Jordan.
Domestic problems like high unemployment and strained natural resources have made a sustainable lifestyle in Jordan very difficult. Owing to these and other factors, the World Bank predicted a modest economic growth of 2.6 percent between the years of 2017 and 2019.
Jordan is also host to the largest number of Palestine refugees with about 370,000 registered Palestinian refugees living in ten recognized Palestine refugee camps, and over 2 million living elsewhere in the country. These refugees live in poor conditions where shelters are dilapidated and generally lack facilities and adequate infrastructure.
Refugee Standard of Living
To address the deteriorating standard of living of nearly five million Palestine refugees, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) launched the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) in 2007. This program improves the livelihood and well-being of Palestine refugees and comport with international law’s protections for refugees. According to UNRWA, ICIP “adopts an integrated, comprehensive, participatory and community-driven improvement of the built environment of Palestine refugee camps, utilizing urban planning tools.”
Since then, UNRWA has been steadily working to repair and improve shelters, schools, clinics and other infrastructure in Jordan. All ICIPs utilize the invaluable knowledge of Palestine refugees and call for their active participation throughout the development process, from assessing a project’s impact to the actual construction of facilities.
The Reach of Poverty
Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees living in abject poverty also benefit from other forms of UNRWA assistance. Schools are built and maintained by UNRWA to provide basic education and vocational training to school-age children. Health centers offer a range of comprehensive services and other facilities focusing on social services and charitable work. UNRWA does not administer or police Palestine refugee camps, which are controlled by the government of Jordan.
Jordan already has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita and severely lacks renewable freshwater resources. The country’s current national population of 9 million is expected to double by 2047. Such population growth means that meeting water demand of the population in the light of climate change and shifting precipitation patterns will be a long-term challenge for Jordan.
Water infrastructure in Jordan, though extensive, is beset by problems such as excessive water loss and inconstant water supply. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants in Jordan need upgrades and diversion for reuse in agriculture.
USAID has identified the Water Authority of Jordan and the Jordan Water Company as best positioned to sustain the growth of the water sector and train staff from water companies in order to enhance water infrastructure and strengthen water management.
Additionally, the World Bank has recommended that Jordan continue to diversify its energy supply and adopt sound economic policies along with structural reforms (such as increased investments and creation of jobs) to help ease the transition to stability from external conflicts.
Jordan may be a small country, but its modern infrastructure holds great potential. By working with its international and regional partners and making refugees an integral part of the infrastructure rebuilding and improvement projects, the government of Jordan can secure a more prosperous future while also improving the quality of life for all.
– Mohammed Khalid