Bisher al-Khasawneh forms new Jordan government

14 October 2020
Mohammad al-Ississ, a key negotiator in Amman's $1.3bn programme with the IMF, is retained as finance minister

A new government headed by Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh has been formed in Jordan as the country grapples with an impending economic crisis.

In a royal decree issued on 12 October, Al-Khasawneh was confirmed as both PM and Minister of Defence, while his cabinet appointments were also approved.

The new Jordanian cabinet includes 31 ministers, eight of which have been retained from former PM Omar al-Razzaz’s government. These incumbents include Ayman al-Safadi (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates), Hala Zawati (Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources), Mohamad al-Ississ (Minister of Finance) and Bassem al-Towaisi (Minister of Culture).

Al-Ississ’ retention comes at a critical time as Amman contends with a deepening fiscal crisis.

The finance minister played an important role in negotiating Jordan’s four-year extended fund facility (EFF), worth $1.3bn, that was approved with the IMF in March. 

The deal will allow Jordan to access $3bn in finance through concessionary loans and grants from major Western donors.

The IMF had estimated economic growth of 2 per cent for Jordan before the Covid-19 pandemic emerged.

Earlier this week, the IMF’s mission chief for Jordan, Ali Abbas, said the fund would account for new data issued by Jordan to revise its October 2020 IMF World Economic Outlook.

“The macroeconomic forecast for Jordan published in the October 2020 IMF World Economic Outlook – including -5 per cent real GDP growth for 2020 – is being revised in the context of the ongoing virtual staff mission for the first review of the EFF.

“In revising its forecast, the IMF team will take into account new information, including recently published data from Jordan’s Department of Statistics that point to better-than-expected GDP growth in the second quarter of 2020.”

Reforms vision

Al-Khasawneh has pledged to overhaul Jordan’s economy and reiterated the Hashemite kingdom’s position on geopolitical issues.

The new PM said his government would focus on developing a “social safety net” and planning a “realistic budget that [encourages] reducing the public debt”.

Amman will study the merger of ministries and agencies to streamline public sector spending, drive tourism sector recovery, continue the restructuring of the energy sector and upgrade the national public transport system, he said.

State news agency Petra said Al-Khasawneh had also pledged to continue focusing on joint Arab action and reaffirmed “commitment to the Palestinian cause and the Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites”.

Al-Khasawneh’s government will submit an action programme within 100 days to King Abdullah II on plans for economic, social, financial, political and reform-related measures.

Other appointments

Ten cabinet positions have been allocated to individuals who have previously held ministerial posts in Jordan. 

This includes Nasser Shraideh, former environment minister (2010-11), who has been named Minister of Planning in Al-Khasawneh’s cabinet, and Yahya al-Kasabi, Jordan’s new Minister of Public Works and Housing who also held this portfolio in Andullah Ensour’s government (2012-16).

Among the new ministerial appointments of note are the confirmation of Marwan Khaitan as Jordan’s Minister of Transport, Tawfiq al-Halalmeh as Minister of Interior and Nathir Obeidat as Minister of Health.

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