Refugee crisis threatens to topple Jordan's economy

With a long history of accepting refugees, Jordan has opened its doors to more than half a million Syrians fleeing the conflict. But the aid is not flowing in to pay the costs and keep Jordan's economy afloat.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters/File
Syrian refugees, at the Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp and others in Jordan, are receiving help, but the costs are overwhelming Jordan's economy.

Over the last two years, Jordan's budget deficit has risen by two-thirds, to $19 billion and 80 percent of gross domestic product. Economic growth has hovered at between 3 and 3.5 percent, a value that the central bank governor has said it won't surpass for the foreseeable future.

The bad news only gets worse with an explanation: Jordan is buckling under the burden of accepting more than half a million Syrian refugees in just three years' time. The way our correspondent in Amman sees it, Jordan faces two choices: "either economic collapse, or the country shuts its border" to the 800 or so Syrians who cross each day.

Both those options would be negatives for the business community. Collapse would cause widespread uncertainty in which business could quickly dry up as consumers pull in their horns, even if an international rescue package came relatively quickly. Social stability, already fragile because of antigovernment protests, risks unraveling further. Closing the border would cause less direct damage to the economy, but would make Jordan a pariah and dry up what little funding it is receiving for its humanitarian efforts.

When the Syrian conflict began, the international community besought neighboring countries to leave borders open. Jordan, which has a long history of accepting refugees – first from the Palestinian territories, then from Iraq – did just that.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook. 

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