Minister: Jordan Receives 60 Percent of London Conference Pledges

Amman, Feb. 13 (Petra) -- Jordan has received about 60 per cent of the total value of pledges donors made during a 2016 conference in London to support the Jordan Response Plan designed to address burdens arising from a massive influx of Syrian refugees, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, said on Monday.

The minister told a joint press conference with the ambassadors of the European Union (EU), Britain, Germany and Norway, and the United Nation's (UN) Resident Representative that only 36 per cent of the value of pledges made in 2015 were fulfilled but in 2016 the ratio increased to 60 per cent. 

He added that there are agreements of additional commitments for 2016 amounting to $522 million that are being still negotiated and will be signed during the first half of 2017.

According to Fakhoury, Jordan has secured an amount of $923.6 million in the form of soft loans concluded in 2016, including $834.6 million channeled to support the state's budget and $89 million to finance developmental projects. He said this soft financing was pledged by donors and banks during the London conference. 

He stressed the importance of this funding to cover a financing gap in the budget through reducing interest rates, extending grace and repayment periods, as that would help in restructuring public debt in accordance with the fiscal reform program agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The minister thanked EU members for supporting Jordan, saying such support enabled the Kingdom to secure additional regional financing windows, including the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the "Madad Fund", as well as the support that was provided through a World Bank-run soft financing mechanism.

He said the government, with the support of donor countries and bodies, has taken the necessary measures to increase the number of Syrian refugee students in schools, taking into account maintaining the level and quality of education provided for Jordanian students.

Also, in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and through donor's support, the minister indicated that the government is working to enroll Syrian refugee children in catch-up education programs in order to prepare them for schools in the coming years.

Fakhoury expressed appreciation for the international support to the education sector, but he said the challenges in this sector remains, especially financing the Ministry of Education's plan to cover the costs of public education services for the Syrian refugee students. He indicated that such cost is put at $1 billion for the 2016-2018 period.

Fakhoury also emphasized the importance of signing the joint decision between Jordan and the EU on simplifying rules of origin to pave the way for Jordanian products to benefit from customs exemptions and preferential terms under the Jordan-EU Association Agreement.

In this regard, the minister said the government, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply and the Investment Authority with the support of the British Department for International Development (DFID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has implemented a project to support and rehabilitate 20 Jordanian factories and linking them with a number of European importers and distributors to help them export their products to European markets.

He added that the project will be expanded to include a larger number of factories to maximize the benefit from the decision on simplifying the rules of origin.

The minister said the Kingdom has been working with a number of countries and donors to expand this project soon and build on the outcome and success of its first phase, in addition to expanding technical assistance to companies to enable them meet European market's standards, hence increasing exports. 

He also noted that coordination was also underway with a number of partners to hold forums and conferences designed to lure in foreign investments and promote Jordanian products abroad. 

While acknowledging that additional international support helped in covering part of Jordan's needs last year, the minister indicated that financial, economic and social hardships still persist underlining the need for maintaining the momentum and continuity of such kind of support in 2017. 

Fakhoury emphasized that extending more support is needed to maintain the level of basic services provided to the Jordanian citizens and Syrian refugees and safeguard the Kingdom's resilience and stability at these exceptional times. 

He said Jordan has "reached the point of saturation" when it comes to holding the burden of Syrian refugees on behalf of the world. He added that Jordan counts on a forthcoming conference to be held by the European Union in the spring this year to pledge more support to the Kingdom. 

British Ambassador in Amman, Edward Oakden, said London's 2016 conference culminated with doubling international support to the Jordan Response Plan, adding that the support reached unprecedented levels.

He added that his country had also stepped up its support to Jordan by more than double and that means "tangible benefits for Jordanians". Oakden spoke about the various forms of assistance his country provided to Jordan, noting that the UK has been supporting initiatives that help youths find jobs. 

EU ambassador in Amman Andrea Matteo Fontana said the bloc and its members fulfilled ambitious commitments they made in London a year ago from now. In 2016, the ambassador noted, the EU pledged around $1.4 billion to Jordan, including $1 billion in the form of grants.

The EU's and its members' pledges made up around 71 per cent of the total value of commitments the international community made at the conference, Fontana said, pledging that the EU will remain committed to supporting Jordan to grapple with this major challenge and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen the economy. 

German Ambassador to Jordan, Birgitta Maria Siefker-Eberle, thank the Kingdom for hosting more than 655,000 registered Syrian refugees and said her country had fully fulfilled the $525 million pledge it made to Jordan in 2016. 

Norwegian Ambassador in Amman, Sissel Breie, said: "After six years of the Syrian crisis, the support extended to neighboring countries, that host the majority of Syrian refugees, continues to be a main priority.....Norway has pledged nearly $2.1 billion to Syria and neighboring countries at the London conference, which makes us the fifth largest donor to the Syrian crisis."

She said more than a third of the Norwegian support was channeled to the education sector. In this context, Breie thanked the ministry of education for its tremendous efforts for the integration of all children in the formal education system.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan and UNDP Resident Representative at the UNDP Jordan Country Office, David McLachlan-Karr, said the Jordanian government has introduced a series of concepts that are changing the game in the response to the Syrian crisis.

He added: "The Jordan Response Plan acknowledges that the Syrian refugees deserve a decent life and it recognizes the exorbitant price Jordan and its citizens shoulder in order to provide such a global benefit so generously."

According to a statement distributed by the Embassy of Kuwait during the press conference, the total value of pledges the Arab Gulf state made at four donor conferences on Syria amounted to $1.6 billion, of which $1.4 billion had been already paid. 

The statement said Kuwait was committed to fulfilling the remainder of pledges it made to Jordan to help the Kingdom cope with the burden of Syrian refugee crisis.