Jordan Seeks Economic Life Jacket

THE Gulf crisis will cost Jordan 40 percent of its gross national product in lost trade, workers' remittances, investments, and aid transfers, according to Michel Marto, Jordan's Deputy Central Bank Governor. Unemployment in Jordan has risen to 30 percent. The government has only been compensated for 1 percent of the $55 million it doled out to provide food, shelter, and water for the stream of 800,000 Arab, Asian, and African refugees who fled Kuwait and Iraq and stopped in Jordan, Mr. Marto said in an interview here last week.

Marto, in Washington to meet with US Treasury officials to seek aid, joins other high-ranking Jordanians, including Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal, Queen Noor, and King Hussein, who have visited US officials to plead Jordan's case.

This Monday, there was a hopeful new sign of world support for nation's affected by the crisis. Twenty-four of the world's richest nations said they would give $13 billion in emergency aid to affected nations, with $10 billion of it going to Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan. Donors included Japan, the United States, and European Community nations.

A United Nations report released last week had called Jordan's economic burden from the Gulf crisis greater than any other affected country besides Kuwait and said ``the situation in Jordan warrants emergency financial assistance from the international community.''

In the interview, Mr. Marto lamented his country's low priority among international aid donors who are aiding nations affected by the Gulf confrontation.

``Our economy is being devastated by this crisis, and yet Egypt and Turkey, far less impacted, are somehow viewed as more important,'' he said during a visit in Washington last week.

Despite Amman's sacrifices in complying with economic sanctions against Iraq, Jordan has been treated as an international pariah, wrongly accused of busting sanctions, Marto said.

Earlier this fall, Japan and Germany promised to make soft loans valued at $100 million and $132 million, respectively. The terms would stretch repayment over 30 years at 1 percent interest. Japan will also co-finance a World Bank loan.

``It is my worry that disbursements of . . . loans will be delayed and this will subject Jordan's balance of payments as well as the budget to serious difficulties,'' Finance Minister Basil Jardaneh said last week.

Marto said he is heartened by a recent White House statement acknowledging Jordan's adherence to the sanctions. ``Now I think reality and perceptions are the same.''

But the US has criticized Jordan for being slow to repudiate Iraq's aggression against Kuwait and join in sanctions. King Hussein's self-appointed mediating role in the conflict has failed to win favor among US officials. Congress approved $35 million in economic support funds for Jordan to be disbursed over this fiscal year, but rejected $50 million earmark for military aid.

Marto is well-rehearsed in running down the mounting costs of the Gulf crisis to Jordan:

Returning citizens. Jordan has felt the economic strain of returning nationals and Palestinians who formerly remitted a constant flow of capital back to the country. Many workers lost jobs in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates as a result of Jordan's perceived slowness to join in international sanctions against Baghdad. Mr. Jardaneh estimates that more than 120,000 people have returned to live in the country since Aug. 2.

Farming. Before the crisis, the Gulf was Jordan's primary market for fruits and vegetables, which made up 10 percent of the country's $1.2 billion exports in 1989. ``There has been an 80 percent loss of this trade, given the developments with Iraq and Kuwait and the fact that the Saudis have stopped importing Jordanian products and blocked our access to the [United Arab] Emirates and Bahrain,'' Marto says.

Manufacturing. Jordan's industrial production was heavily geared toward Iraq, which received 40 percent of Jordanian pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Marto warned of the collapse of Jordanian industry: ``Some of our businesses relied on 80 percent or more of their production exported to Iraq.''

Services. Jordan's economy is largely based on services, and this sector has also been hit hard. Transport, transit trade, and tourism have come to a standstill.

Marto is troubled that Jordan's economy has lost ground on hard-won advances made during the past two years of reforms monitored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The losses to output and employment will only erode the tax base and constrain the budget further. Moreover, aid from other Arab nations will be $200 million less than Amman expected. Jardaneh and Marto are now negotiating with World Bank and IMF officials in Amman on what Marto hopes will be a new program.

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