Playing the Long Game

If we want our economy to prosper, we need to start planning for the long-term.

Our economy is often described as being small and open. One of the main advantages this combination supposedly provides is flexibility when dealing with regional shocks.

In the late 1990s, however, the economic policy makers were more interested in connecting the economy to global markets than keeping it insulated from the political, social, and economic disorder the region was going through at the time.

Since then, Jordan has become a member of the WTO and signed both a partnership agreement with the EU and an FTA with the United States. The economy has always been flexible and fully resilient to all external shocks during its connection with its regional arena, but for one reason or another, it has lost much of its vigor over the last 10 years or so.

It has never been asked why our economy is not resilient enough to the new global space? Why didn’t we benefit from so many opportunities in the new playground as we did when we were playing within our region? Are we really a resilient economy? Or is resilience a term we only care about when talking about attracting more assistance to the Syrian refugees issues?

We must admit in this respect that back in the early seventies and eighties of the last century the main function of the Ministry of Planning was to prepare a five-year development plan with specific well planned highly needed projects, and to put forward a budget, a timeframe, a stakeholder’s plan, and a socio-economic implications response to those development projects.

Under this theme, the country was then resilient enough with a state of the art infrastructure that opens up enough room to bring in new projects and cater for new investments. It’s unfortunate to see the main role and success that the Ministry of Planning is achieving today roam around how much more foreign loans or foreign assistance it can bring rather than how many of its planning role or development plans have been successfully implemented.

This is not to blame the ministry as much as to say that we really need to go back to the roots of planning to be able to play in the new global playground. Soon, the region is going to be prepared for the new era of reconstruction and development, starting from Iraq, Syria to Libya and Yemen. Are we well prepared to play the right role in this respect? Do we have a proper resilient plan to benefit from this development phase and to move the economy forward or do we prefer to be surprised with each and every new phase in this part of the world? Should we not start thinking of putting together a proper foresight plan for different scenarios, socially, politically, and economically so that we are prepared for the coming phase that will reshape the region for the coming 50 years or so? Some countries in the region have started their preparation for the year 2071. I hope we stop living in the past and start planning for a more resilient future. Time is not in our favor and the clock is ticking.