Still hoping for the best
By the Gazette Editorial Board
Pledging $2.5 billion in aid to Jordan, three Arab Gulf states namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have offered a Marshall-like initiative to that country, to help it out of its economic crisis.
This has not been the first time for the Gulf States to rush to the aid of an Arab country including Jordan itself. In fact, Jordan and Morocco were each pledged a similar amount in 2011 by the Gulf Co-operation Council. However, the five-year pledge expired last year.
Peaceful protests, sparked by an income tax bill which the government had suggested as part of its austerity plan, led King Abdallah of Jordan to sack the prime minister, in a bid to appease public anger. Saudi Arabia has been quick to act to calm down the furious Jordanian street.
Saudi Arabia invited Kuwait and the UAE to a summit in Mecca to discuss an aid package, which includes a central bank deposit, World Bank guarantees, five years of budget support and funding for development projects.
Jordan has been struggling to reduce its debt after getting a $723 million loan from the IMF in 2016. The mass protests which broke out in recent days against price hikes and a new income tax system have been very disturbing, not only for Jordan but also for neighbouring Arab countries.
Jordan, flanked by Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, is a strategically important country by virtue of its geopolitical position. Jordan has been affected by regional turmoil which forced it to receive an influx of refugees who fled the wars in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. Moreover, Jordan is hosting almost two million Palestinian refugees.
The cash-strapped government has been strained by problems related to high unemployment and the burden of hosting such a high number of refugees.
In fact, the show of unity demonstrated by the Gulf Arab countries is a model that should have a wider scope and be part of a systematised plan of action.
The support which the Gulf states have lent Jordan follows, to some extent, the example of the EU bailout plan for Greece, which has continued to date, in response to the refugee situation in Greece.
These same Arab countries also stood behind Egypt after the 2013 revolution to help it stand on its feet following a very difficult phase of political, social and economic instability.
Hopes for a fully-fledged economic Arab unity had been high in the wake of the establishment of the Arab League in 1945. And now more than 70 years later, this unity is still a dream, although there are many situations in which inter-Arab fraternity and support are at their best.