On December 13th, Prime Minister Ensour announced an “ambitious and real” program to create 10,000 jobs. It’s interesting to note that the regime has broken enough promises that it needs to refer to this program as not only “ambitious” but “real” also, perhaps in order to distinguish it from an imaginary program, such as those reform programs that King Abdullah has mentioned repeatedly over the years.
There’s just one problem with this announcement – it simply isn’t going to happen. 10,000 jobs aren’t going to be created. If you look into the details of the announcement there’s simply no way that the actions Ensour has promised to take are going to create anywhere near that many employment opportunities. From his statement, it seems clear that Ensour’s jobs program has two components, first, the Governorates Development Fund (more on that below), which is intended to develop small or medium-scale projects in governorates throughout Jordan. The second component is the Governorates Executive Program, which has yet to be implemented. A look at the history of the Governorates Development Fund (GDF for short) reveals that it is in fact a prime example of broken promises, stalling, and everything else that has plagued Jordan in recent years.
The GDF since its announcement that has been ill-conceived and incompetently managed. In July 2011, King Abdullah announced its establishment during a visit to Salt. Nothing then happened until December 2011, when King Abdullah said that he would not accept any more delays in launching the fund, despite the fact that there had been a delay of several months and he has spoken of himself before as “the type of person that wants everything done yesterday.” There were still several more months of delays after this meeting.
The clearest description of it comes from the same December 2011 meeting, where Former Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh said that it would have a JD150 million budget, including JD25 million in 2012 and would be funded by both the state and private sector. The fund would support projects throughout Jordan, help citizens develop skills, and provide low-interest loans to participants. It would have been operated by numerous state institutions, which would likely have made further delays and perhaps corruption inevitable. For example, it would have involved the Cities and Villages Development Bank, which was so inefficient that that the government had to seek assistance from the World Bank and the French Development Agency to restructure it.
There were, indeed, more delays as the government abandoned this plan in July 2012 and decided to have JEDCO (Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation) operate the fund. How much has been done since then? The answer is not much when you examine the details. When Ensour said that JD3 million had been contributed, he presented it as part of a jobs program, but in fact he was really discussing the government funding, after more delays, the GDF’s JD 3 million share of JD12 million in projects that JEDCO approved in back in September. Indeed, the additional JD12 million to be contributed to the GDF consists of more projects that had already been endorsed by JEDCO, and the total amount (JD15 million) is short of the JD25 million that the government promised would be spent at the meeting in December 2011.
The government is presenting things that had already been planned for a long time as part of a new jobs program. This is really another attempt to make it seem like things are changing when in fact no reform is being made.