Not only the poorest need aid

Op-Ed by His Majesty King Abdullah II
International Herald Tribune
21 May 2007

Last week, leaders from ten other mostly lower-middle income nations joined me at the Dead Sea for an urgent meeting about the future prosperity and social stability of our countries. Our group, the G-11, with per capita incomes above $875 but no more than $3,465 a year, is home to almost two of every five people on earth.

We believe we have led the way on growing out of poverty as a result of our sustained commitment to wide-ranging reforms. But for us to continue delivering the benefits of growth to all of our people, we agreed that our countries need a new partnership with you, the Group of Eight industrialised nations, one which will raise lower middle-income countries into higher income brackets.

The fact is that the G-8 development and aid agenda has, quite rightly, been focused of late on the poorest countries. These are also the countries which often suffer from the greatest problems with provision of basic government services, the rule of law and political instability.

Yet efforts directed at the poorest cannot be separated from the larger goal of global development, to ensure that countries can create and then truly sustain prosperity. There is growing recognition of the need to support lower middle-income countries that have made the tough choices for reform and growth.

Jordan and the other G-11 countries – Croatia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Georgia, Honduras, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Paraguay and Sri Lanka – are now poised at that threshold, one which will take them further steps up the economic ladder.

That success will foster stronger, more stable economies, more purchasing power, more resources for development, and new opportunities for our countries and our trading and investment partners. These are advances that, together, create a sustainable cycle of prosperity and growth – for our countries, our regions, and the world.

To reach our goals we have made the difficult economic choices that success demands. In Jordan, we have pursued a national strategy of economic and social reform, focusing on good governance, sound macroeconomic policies, a stronger private sector, and education and other gateways to prosperity. Recent economic markers for G-11 countries as a whole show similar positive outcomes from their commitment to reform.

Yet dangers remain. While we are far from being the poorest countries, our population includes 80 per cent of the world's poorest people. Until we achieve success, our countries cannot relax their focus on critical and often costly development needs, from education to infrastructure to fiscal reform and more.

Moreover, many of our countries are struggling with a legacy of debt rooted in international economic crises decades ago – debt which has been forgiven for many of the world's poorest countries. Rising oil prices, regional conflict, and terrorism can all undermine the structures of good governance and the rule of law which underpin successful growth.

Ironically, it is this growth which has often led to withdrawal of conventional international assistance.

The G-11 has identified four areas where international support can help us consolidate gains and move forward. The first is promotion of investment, which supports higher productivity and trade-based growth. Second is trade development, including market access and technical assistance. Third is debt-burden alleviation, to reduce pressures on financial and budgetary space. Fourth is targeted grant assistance, to address global crises such as poverty and health, but just as urgently, to support education, infrastructure and other initiatives that enable developing countries to maximise the impact of knowledge, technology, innovation, and economic liberalisation.

Beyond these specific approaches must be a new partnership of effort. As countries move towards prosperity, assistance should move beyond traditional mechanisms to an alternative development framework – one that rewards, not penalises, successful development and reform.

You, the leaders of the G-8, have been responsive to our call. At the Jordan summit, there were observers from Germany and Japan, the current and future G-8 presidencies, and later this year, the G-11 and G-8 presidents will meet in Germany.

Together, I believe we can create a new development paradigm, one that is truly global in its reach and its impact. The success of lower middle-income countries will create an anchor for regional stability and prosperity and provide a crucial model of what structural and economic reform can achieve. By supporting that achievement, you will send a powerful signal to the poorest countries that the global commitment to development goes to the finish line.