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Destinations - Israel & Jordan - Jordan & Eilat - World Facts

JORDAN

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country's long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population. Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 war and barely managed to defeat Palestinian rebels who threatened to overthrow the monarchy in 1970. King HUSSEIN in 1988 permanently relinquished Jordanian claims to the West Bank. In 1989, he reinstituted parliamentary elections and initiated a gradual political liberalization; political parties were legalized in 1992. In 1994, he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. In 2003, Jordan staunchly supported the Coalition ouster of Saddam in Iraq and following the outbreak of insurgent violence in Iraq, absorbed thousands of displaced Iraqis. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2009, King ABDALLAH exercised his constitutional authority to dissolve parliament and called for new elections. Separately, he dismissed the government and appointed a new prime minister and cabinet in December 2009. The King charged the new government with conducting elections before the end of 2010 as well as instituting economic and political reforms.

Location

Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
 
Climate

Mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
 
People

Population: 6,269,285 (July 2009 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religion: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shia Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
 
Area

Total: 89,342 sq km
Land: 88,802 sq km
Water: 540 sq km

Economy
 
Jordan's economy is among the smallest in the Middle East, with insufficient supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources, underlying the government's heavy reliance on foreign assistance. Other economic challenges for the government include chronic high rates of poverty, unemployment, inflation, and a large budget deficit. Since assuming the throne in 1999, King Abdullah has implemented significant economic reforms, such as opening the trade regime, privatizing state-owned companies, and eliminating most fuel subsidies, which in the past few years have spurred economic growth by attracting foreign investment and creating some jobs. The global economic slowdown, however, has depressed Jordan's GDP growth while foreign assistance to the government in 2009 plummeted, hampering the government's efforts to reign in the large budget deficit. Export-oriented sectors such as manufacturing, mining, and the transport of re-exports have been hit the hardest. Amman is considering sweeping tax cuts to attract foreign investment and stimulate domestic growth, and the government has guaranteed bank deposits through 2010. Jordan's financial sector has been relatively isolated from the international financial crisis because of its limited exposure to overseas capital markets. Jordan is currently exploring nuclear power generation to forestall energy shortfalls.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$33.05 billion (2009 est.)
$32.05 billion (2008 est.)
$30.35 billion (2007 est.)
Note: data are in 2009 US dollars

EILAT
(See Israel World Facts)
 
*Source: Central Intelligence Agency
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