Jordan’s King Abdullah II cast his desert nation as a haven of stability in the Middle East on Thursday, in a pitch to bring much-needed investment to the kingdom’s struggling economy.
Describing the country as “a stable and reliable gateway,” King Abdullah told the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington that economic development was essential for future stability.
“The Arab Spring has been very costly to many countries, (it has) weakened investor confidence and causing a dramatic decline in tourism receipts,” he said.
“But at the end of the day people want more freedom, more jobs and more dignity, these are the messages of the Arab Spring.”
“People must see concrete results that change their lives.”
Bounded by violent tumult in Iraq and Syria, Jordan itself has not been immune to unrest, or the tide of the Arab Spring.
The country faces chronic economic challenges, and people have been protesting since January 2011 demanding economic and political reforms as well as an end to corruption.
While Jordan’s official unemployment rate stands at 13 percent, unofficially the rate is closer to 30 percent and the country has little in the way of an oil-funded safety net.
Earlier this month a 54-year-old Jordanian man died after setting himself on fire, in the latest in a spate of such deaths, some of which have been linked to economic hardships.
“I’m here to tell you that Jordan is open for business. Not only despite the Arab Spring, but also because of the Arab Spring,” Abdullah told assembled business leaders.
Lionel Johnson, the chamber’s head of Middle East and North African affairs, said US firms were keen to invest in the country and saw the king as able to bring prosperity.
“I think US companies are going to be receptive to the message because we have been involved in Jordan for many, many years,” Johnson said.
“He has been a forward looking leader who is very responsive to the aspirations of his people.”
Johnson cited the information technology, tourism and pharmaceutical sectors as areas for potential investment.
“You have construction firms, infrastructure development firms, hotels that are looking upgrade to get into the market anew,” he said.