German Chancellor Merkel pledged a $100mn loan to Jordan yesterday to help the new government implement economic reforms, shortly before leaving for Lebanon on the second leg of a two-day trip to the Middle East. Anti-austerity protests in Jordan had forced the cabinet to resign earlier this month.
Merkel said the loan, which comes in addition to another 384mn euros ($443mn) Germany promised Jordan this year, aims to support the kingdom’s efforts to implement reform demanded by the International Monetary Fund. “We know that this is a difficult period in which the fruits of the reforms will come later,” she said, following a meeting with King Abdullah in the capital, Amman. Merkel then travelled to Lebanon and briefly spoke with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Beirut. A dinner was planned for later yesterday. Merkel earlier hailed Jordan for hosting refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.
The kingdom hosts around 650,000 registered refugees from Syria. Factoring in unregistered refugees, however, the country is believed to be accommodating as many as 1.2mn. Neighbouring conflicts have left the economy strained, prompting the government to take a three-year loan from the IMF in 2016, amounting to $723mn, with the aim of lowering the country’s public debt, which stands at around 95% of gross domestic product.
A series of linked austerity measures, including lifting bread subsidies, left people angry. Protests erupted on May 30 and lasted for eight consecutive days in opposition to a draft tax bill proposed by the previous government. Protests were halted only after newly-appointed Prime Minister Omar Razzaz vowed to withdraw the law. “We know that we’re facing the same challenges, that means the fight against Daesh.
The means that we have to create a peace process in Syria,” said Merkel, referring to the Islamic State extremist group.
Earlier yesterday, Merkel addressed students at Amman’s German Jordanian University, Jordan’s third largest university, which was founded in 2005. Some 100 German colleges participate in shaping the university’s curriculum and study trips to Germany and Austria.
Merkel also met with German troops stationed in Jordan as part of a US-led military alliance fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
“There is a direct connection between our security at home and what you are doing here,” Merkel said during a visit to the approximately 250 German troops based at the Al Asrak base in the country’s east.
The troops had been moved to Jordan from Turkey’s Incirlik base. Today, Merkel is scheduled to visit a school in the Lebanese capital where refugee children and Lebanese children attend in shifts. Germany funds an aid programme that allowed 270,000 children to go to school, including more than 100,000 Syrian boys and girls.
Merkel is also expected to address the fragile refugee situation in Lebanon during talks with Hariri today.
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