Empowering the Regions

Jordan governorates

All of Jordan’s governorates, not just Amman and Aqaba, hold huge economic potential. The challenge facing us is how to unleash it.

By Khalid Wazani

How bad is income inequality in Jordan? Is it fair to say its economy is powered by just three or four governorates? Why do some Jordanians feel the need to move from villages to big cities? These are all legitimate questions to ask when it comes to discussing the issue of inequality.

If one looks at the actual economic resources (both human and natural) belonging to each of the twelve governorates of Jordan, you’ll be stunned to find that the country as a whole lacks for nothing except the proper management of these resources.

It’s simply not acceptable that the main contributors to GDP should be confided to the four governorates of Amman, Irbid, Zarqa, and Aqaba, while the other eight governorates are only sources of raw material and food products. Each of these regions has its own competitive edge and should have its own economy. How come the most beautiful touristic sites and the most fertile soil is in Jerash and Ajloun, but at the same time most of the poverty pockets exist there?

Each region has its own competitive edge and should have its own economy. Each can contribute substantially to the GDP of the country if only its resources were utilized properly. The question is how to do this.

We need to immediately start working on a strategic regional development plan. To achieve this, we need to start thinking of local economic development as a means of developing the economic resources of the country. A study should be put in place in each governorate to pinpoint its unique competitive edge, so the decision makers and planners can set a local development plan that suits each governorate. However, to achieve this, the full engagement of both the private sector and the local community is needed. Input from both will be crucial in designing the appropriate strategy and making it successful.

As a way of starting to engage local communities in this process, the government was smart to hold cabinet meetings in different governorates. Now is also the right time to begin devising a master plan for each governorate, the type of which HM King Abdullah has long been calling for.

I believe each governorate in Jordan can stand alone as an economy. For the sustainability of such a project and to protect it from changes in governments or ministers, I believe this important project should be launched by the office of HRH Crown Prince Hussein, and backed by him personally. This will guarantee both serious planning and actual implementation with full monitoring and evaluation.