East Studies Center Conference
The Middle East and the world at large witnessed major economic and political developments in the last decade of the twentieth century. Economic theories changed, technological advancements surpassed all earlier eras, the degree of interaction in the world economy through both multinational corporations and the Internet and media reached unprecedented levels, as did the degree of common economic interests that surpassed geographical borders as well as former water and trade routes. All of these developments directly affected regional and international trade systems, economic development theories, local, regional, and international investment, as well as the vital interests and international relations of every nation.
During this era, the United States of America dramatically increased its control over the international economy, and even over the world’s energy resources, through military force, agreements with various nations, or through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Group of 8 Industrialized Nations (G8). America’s increased role occurred simultaneously with the declined political influence and the weakening of the economic theories of the former Soviet Union. The inability of the Islamic and Arab worlds to fill the vacuum caused by the dismemberment of the Soviet Union with their own economic theories and policies led to increased globalization in the region with the United States as the prime beneficiary.
The changes in the international financial and trade markets and increasing globalization have had an especially negative affect on the Arab world because of the lack of a strong Arab economic bloc that could protect and promote the interests of the Arab nations. Jordan is an Arab nation with limited abilities but with great human resource potential. The recent developments and changes affected Jordan as they affected other nations. Due to the weakness of Arab economic cooperation, Jordan, like other Arab nations, was forced to respond to the international changes and developments individually. It responded by adopting economic reform, structural adjustment, and privatization policies, by signing joint development agreements and opening free trade zones, and by joining the World Trade Organization. These policies resulted in major changes in Jordan’s economic infrastructure and required major legal developments – all of which took place in a very short time.
The most important aspect of these changes and legal developments has been in opening up opportunities for investment in Jordan as a means of building the basis for continual development. As a result, the movement of capital to and within Jordan has become a basic characteristic of the economy. These capital movements have brought with them new social and political problems and even cultural challenges related to the culture of consumption and the culture of the free market. However, the need to develop and increase investment remains a strong component of social and economic development and stability. This has encouraged us to concentrate on researching and studying the opportunities and prospects for investment in Jordan with the goal of developing these opportunities in the interest of the nation.
The Middle East Studies Center has thus organized a conference entitled: “Investment in Jordan: Opportunities and Prospects.” The Conference will be held on July 17 and 18, 2001 in the Amman Chamber of Commerce with the goal of developing a strategic national vision encompassing both the public and private sectors that will facilitate the establishment of an environment suitable for investment and provide new prospects for the Jordanian economy in light of the regional and international developments. The conference has three main goals, namely: 1.) developing a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the challenges facing direct investment in Jordan of the kind that will lead to real and lasting economic development, 2.) clarifying the investment opportunities in Jordan in light of current regional conditions, current international conditions, and Jordan’s new and developing foreign economic relationships, and 3.) developing the investment situation in Jordan by crystallizing an objective, scientific vision of the relationship between investment opportunities on the one hand and the challenges facing the national economy on the other.
The conference will discuss at length the nature of investment and the opportunities for investment provided by different institutional and legal frameworks and will work to develop a national economic strategy that corresponds with the economic goals and higher interests of the nation. It is important that such a strategy encompass both the public and private sectors and is strengthened with theoretical and academic principles. The development of such a strategy will enable us to arrive at a strategic vision for investment in Jordan that benefits all sectors of society and can be used by specialists, businessmen, officials, and academics.
The conference will be a forum for free and objective expression about the economic concerns and realities of Jordan and will provide an opportunity to clarify the opportunities and challenges of local, Arab, and international investment.
The philosophy and goals of the conference have led to the definition of three main themes. These themes are:
First: An exploration of the opportunities for investment in Jordan in light of international and Arab economic realities. Rapid international changes make it incumbent to study the effect of these changes on the Jordanian economic infrastructure and to derive means to benefit from the changes. This is especially important in light of Jordan’s recent entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the signing of the Jordanian-European Union Partnership Agreement (JEUPA), the activation of the Inter-Arab Free Trade Agreement (IAFTA), the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, as well as the establishment of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) and Industrial Qualifying Zones (IQZ’s) in various other parts of the Kingdom
Second: An assessment of the prospects for new business and investment opportunities in Jordan. This includes defining the opportunities for investment in the new economy of communications and information technology, the ability of Jordan to benefit from new investment prospects in traditional industrial, agricultural, and tourism sectors, defining the requirements for technology transfer in production and marketing and analyzing what is needed to develop the banking system in Jordan to meet the needs of new technologies and economic changes.
Third: Perform economic applications on different vital national sectors both in the traditional economy and in the new fields of communication and information technology. The ability to progress in each sector will be discussed along with the points of strength and the points of weakness in the Jordanian economy. The economic goals of comprehensive and continual economic development will be furthered by applications that enable us to understand the direct and indirect effects of both international developments and local economic legislation on leading national sectors.
An academic committee made up of five researchers defined the vision, goals, and main themes of the conference. The committee included:
· Mr. Jawad Al-Hamad, General Director, Middle East Studies Center
· Dr. Ahmad Al-Qatanani, Dean of Faculty of Economics and Managerial Sciences, Philadelphia University
· Dr. Khalid Al-Wazani, Economics Consultant at the Royal Court and Former General Director of the Customs Department
· Dr. Yaqoub Suleiman, Economics Professor, University of Applied Sciences
· Mohammed Faiz, Researcher [Secretary of the Academic Committee]
The six conference sessions during the two-day conference are entitled:
Jordan and the Surrounding Environment:
Jordanian Economic Resources
Jordanian Economic Competitiveness
Opportunities and Prospects for Investment in Jordan
Basic Economic Indicators and Criteria
A Jordanian Strategy to Attract Investment and the Impact of Such a
Strategy on the State and Society
from different economic backgrounds will participate in the conference.
37.5% of the participants will be from the public sector and
official institutions, another 37.5% will be from the private sector and
the remaining 25% will be from the academic sector and different
universities. Well-qualified Jordanians who are notable for their
understanding and concern for the development of the national economy will
chair the six sessions.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Amman Chamber of Commerce,Represented by its chairman Mr. Haider Murad for hosting this conference, as I would like to thank Jordan Investment Board represented by its General Director Mrs Reem Badran for Support & Participation. Our thanks also go to the Jordanian, Arab, and international media outlets for their coverage of the conference. Such coverage helps in the success of the conference and serves the national interests.