Jordan will receive a low-interest loan of $100 million aiming to create 100,000 new jobs for Jordanians and Syrian refugees in the next five years, the World Bank said on Sunday.
The World Bank's Board of Directors offered the long-term, almost interest-free loan as part of an attempt by the international community to improve conditions within the Kingdom of Jordan, which is overburdened economically. The loan will be given at rates usually reserved for supporting the economies of the poorest developing countries, and can be repaid over a period of 40 years.
Jordan has a population of 7.5 million people and an unemployment rate of approximately 22 percent. The small country is home to more than 1.4 million Syrians, including over 600,000 registered refugees who fled into the country since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011.
In a highly unusual move, the money for Jordan and Lebanon, both of which are middle-income countries, was taken out of a special World Bank fund usually reserved for poorer countries.
"We are taking money from that fund and giving it to a middle income country because Jordan has taken such extraordinary measures in hosting refugees," Jim Yong Kim said to ABC News.
ABC also reported that this may be just the beginning, as international support for refugee-hosting nations may signal a new global commitment to help address the regional problems caused by the Syrian conflict.
"The idea of concessional loans was part of a package of support for refugees and their hosts announced at a Syria aid conference last month. Eventually, the World Bank and other donors hope to offer $3 billion to $4 billion in cheap loans to refugee host countries, with international donors buying down interest."Imad Fakhoury, the Planning and International Cooperation Minister of Jordan, stated that the country is currently working with the World Bank for a second development loan valued at $250 million, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). The Minister also described the visit by the World Bank President and U.N. Secretary-General as "historic and unprecedented."
"A partnership among the Jordanian government, donor countries and development actors will use the financing to develop and strengthen existing special economic zones to attract international and domestic investments. Additional details of the job-creation plans will be announced in coming months."The press release also noted that the purpose of the visit was to discuss possible solutions to the severe economic and social strains caused by large refugee influx. This is also the second time in two years Jim Yong Kim has visited Jordan.
"The Jordanian government has done an exceptional job in helping to meet the challenges posed by the large flows of refugees," Kim said in the World Bank press release. "It is now up to the international community to do more to help Jordan – and provide it with the innovative financing it needs to continue hosting refugees. It's also important for Jordan to enact necessary reforms that will attract investments needed for the economy to grow and provide shared prosperity for all Jordanians."
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]