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Jordan’s promising emancipation from the World Bank - By RUBA SAQR, Jordan News

 

 

The writer has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.
 
This week, Jordan took a bold step toward self-reliance (in policy-making more than anything) by securing funding for a strategic food-security project from three international financial institutions other than the World Bank, a promising move that could expedite the country’s emancipation from the bank’s invasive policies.
 
 
 
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nasser Al-Shraideh responded Sunday to a scoop by Al Ghad News about the World Bank having suspended funding to the country’s “emergency food security” project (at around $480 million), with an announcement that signals a significant shift in leadership and policy.
 
The government, which in other areas has been known for its significant lethargy and needless dependence on donor institutions to draw up some of its strategies, seems to have had a hand in the World Bank’s reported decision. It was immediately clear that the planning ministry had other plans in mind, seeing how it has already secured preliminary agreements with three different financing bodies to the tune of $430 million.
 
Although the project is focused on securing the Kingdom’s strategic grain reserve, the government’s decision to look for alternative streams of financing could signal the beginning of the end for the World Bank’s involvement in Jordan’s overall food-security projects.
 
The three financiers that will be offering Jordan a breather from the World Bank’s invasive policies are: The Islamic Development Bank , the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the OPEC Fund for International Development.
 
According to Shraideh, these institutions have offered Jordan “more favorable terms” than the World Bank, which could mean that the bank’s suspension of funding was largely driven by Jordan.
 
In the bigger picture, EIB’s involvement in the project is reassuring. Late last year, the EU unveiled its “Global Gateway” initiative, a multi-billion-euro strategy to reshape the bloc’s foreign policy through “fair” infrastructure projects offered to partner countries outside of the EU.
 
The initiative came shortly after the Biden administration introduced its ambitious “Build Back Better” bill to compete with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, which analysts say has facilitated the communist regime’s world economic domination, with help from the now weak World Trade Organization.
 
The Global Gateway is also closely linked to Europe’s daring “Strategic Compass”, a vision led by French President Emmanuel Macron with the aim of weaning European foreign policy off the US. It comes as a reaction to Trump’s show of animosity throughout his time in office, followed by the Biden administration’s AUKUS deal, which alienated the EU (and France, specifically).
 
Even with the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, the EU seems to have kept its focus on its strategic objectives to strengthen its economic and political presence in the world, even though some local observers have interpreted the war as an attempt by the US to weaken the bloc and keep it in its debt for its crucial role in World War II.
 
At local level, these world developments have given Jordan plenty of wiggle room to start the process of emancipating itself from old economic and political entanglements, giving it the opportunity to form new alliances based on a renewed understanding that the Jordanians, like any other nation in the world, are entitled to their own water autonomy and food security — and on their own terms.
 
Over the span of almost three decades, the World Bank has failed Jordan through its egregious mishandling of the water dossier. It has shown in clear terms that it cannot be trusted as a developmental “visionary” and partner. The strategies it keeps on proposing to Jordan, which become inescapable once the government accepts the bank’s funding (including its loans), are not truly in the best interest of the Jordanian people.
 
This week’s developments show that self-reliance starts with cementing the country’s independence in policy making, first and foremost.
 
Although on several fronts the government is still unable to live up to the country’s best expectations, two ministries have shown strength of vision and will: the Foreign Ministry and, more recently, the Ministry of Planning. This goes to show that Jordan does have what it takes to fight the public sector’s state of rut.
To achieve the Kingdom’s food security, the Planning Ministry is right to learn from the past and choose an alternative route that sidesteps the World Bank.
Technically, these two ministries answer to the Cabinet and the sitting prime minister, but as sovereignty institutions, they are directly guided by the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah, which gives them a special place in the overall makeup of the Jordanian government.
 
Today, Jordan seems to have reached a new level in its strategic thinking, especially having learnt its lesson from the World Bank’s culpability in denying the country its legitimate right to a stand-alone water resource (that steers away from giving Israel an unjustifiable strategic advantage). A case in point: Israel has six major seawater desalination plants along its Mediterranean and Red Sea shores, with two more on the way by 2025, while Jordan still has no desalination plant.
 
But Jordan’s first step toward emancipation from the World Bank’s tight grip started before this week’s announcement. In May last year, the World Bank Group took the decision to remove the Red Sea-Dead Sea project from its list of financed projects for Jordan. In response, the Kingdom became more assertive about its right to water independence, culminating in the Planning Ministry’s successful round of negotiations with several financing establishments to fund the upcoming Aqaba-based “National Water Carrier Project”, an undertaking that has faced many hurdles over the span of almost 30 years.
 
The World Bank’s damaging policies in different parts of the world have been well-documented by researchers, civil society institutions and coalitions, and anti-globalization activists of various nationalities and backgrounds. An elaborate catalogue of evidence shows that its policies have ulterior motives that are mostly unfair to the nations the bank offers loans to.
 
In India, the World Bank financed the construction of mega-dams on historically agricultural lands, resulting in the migration of millions of farmers to urban centers. Those rural communities now live as beggars in environmentally hazardous slums, having lost their livelihoods and their agricultural inheritance from generations past.
 
During the pandemic, the bank attempted to rebrand its image as a food security expert and has been working hard to position itself as Jordan’s primary food security partner, which will bear huge risks for the country, judging from the bank’s lengthy history in destroying people-centric agriculture.
 
To achieve the Kingdom’s food security, the Planning Ministry is right to learn from the past and choose an alternative route that sidesteps the World Bank. This promises to usher in a new dawn for Jordan’s development as a nation, especially in areas relating to policy making in water and agriculture.
 
 
Ruba Saqr has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.
 

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