Jordan ambassador to Yemen Times:”It is our aim to help Yemen become a more prosperous country” [Archives:2008/1208/Reportage]

November 17 2008

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
Ambassador Ahmed A. Jaradat was appointed as Jordanian ambassador to Yemen in 2005. Since then, he has made tremendous efforts to improve the relationship between the two countries not only politically and economically, but also through educational exchange and cooperation in the medical and tourism sectors.

Prior to his voluntary posting to Yemen, he was working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jordan. Nadia Al-Sakkaf met H.E. for the following interview.

Between 2005 and today there has been a quantum leap in the size of trade exchange between Yemen and Jordan. How did this happen?

In 2007, we started importing crude oil from Yemen and this is why the size of imports from Yemen has increased from JD 2.78 million in 2005 to JD 38.04 million in 2007. Beside oil we also import fish and agricultural products. We have also increased the size of exports to Yemen from JD 23.72 million in 2005 to JD 32.28 million in 2007. Most of our exports are medicines and plastics. During the last three years, the embassy has worked hard on elevating the demand for Jordanian medicines in the Yemeni market from the 14th position to number five of the most popular and reliable medicines. This has meant an increase of over JD 10 million in the last three years.

During the latest meeting of the Yemeni-Jordanian Joint Higher Committee, its 13th session organized in August in Amman, Yemen and Jordan signed 17 cooperation agreements in the form of executive programs, protocols and memoranda of understanding in a number of joint cooperation fields. It is our aim to help Yemen become a more prosperous country.

Despite this drastic increase, there has been criticism from Jordanian officials at the committees' sessions that the trade exchange could be improved?

This is true. We tried to negotiate with the Yemeni government for a bilateral Free Trade agreement that would dramatically facilitate the size of trade exchange. However, the Yemeni government has explained that they cannot yet go ahead with such agreement until accession to the World Trade Organization has taken place or at least a similar regional agreement is in force. The reason behind this is that a good percentage of the Yemeni revenues come from taxation and if they cannot sign such agreements without adequate improvements in the national economy or generation alternative income, the delay which is comprehensible.

Is Jordan doing anything to help Yemen on the economical front strategy wise?

We have been working closely with the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and Investment Authority. We invited a number of officials to visit Jordan and learn from our experience especially with regards to the one-stop-shop investment system. Through this system investors would not have to go through a lot of paper work and their business licensing in the country would be greatly simplified. We did not hold back any information and in fact we have sent our own experts to help create a similar system in Yemen.

We also worked with the other ministries to improve the Yemeni human capacities and hence enhance the national production. For example, every year we host 100 midcareer doctors to have internships in top quality Jordanian hospitals all around the kingdom. We also provide many educational scholarships and facilitate the education of self-sponsored Yemenis in Jordan. Today we have over 3,000 Yemeni students in various Jordanian universities compared to 1,500 Jordanians studying in Yemen. We have also started recently providing higher education grants, and so far every year we sponsor the Masters and PhD of two students.

Moreover, we provide many scholarships and training for technical and vocational education. We have seen that there are many opportunities in Yemen and what lacks is developing human capacity. This is why you will find that many of our educational cooperation programs with Yemen are related to training and not construction as per say.

What about the Jordanian-Yemeni University to be established in Aden?

This is yet another example of our strong cooperation with Yemen. The university has already been established and we hope that education will start from the coming academic year 2009/2010. The university's capital of USD 10 million is equally funded by the Jordanian and Yemeni governments and is supervised by the Yemeni-Jordanian Educational Company. Syllabus, books and all academic staff will be provided according to Jordanian university standards and we hope that through this university we can contribute to the educational system in Yemen and provide the country with qualified graduates.

We are even considering the creation of a high school of a similar nature so that the products of this school will automatically find place at the university. We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Minister of Education regarding this school.

Just recently and according to Yemen's Ministry of Health, many Yemenis' first choice for medication has changed from Egypt to Jordan although the latter is known to be a more expensive. How did this happen?

Tourism in general is divided into three parts: recreational, religious and medical. I wanted to help Yemenis identify what is best for them with regards to long-term prosperity. I am proud to say that Jordan has very advanced medical care and is comparable to many highly developed western countries in this regard. Therefore, our medical system is more qualified to provide accurate and helpful medical service in a shorter time. Instead of spending weeks and having to come back again after a few months for review, our hospitals help patients within a few days and in a very efficient way. I have heard of many Yemenis expressing their gratitude with the health care we provide. Sometimes, if the patient is too ill to be helped, the doctors are honest and tell the patient's family to take their relative home instead of spending money on a hopeless case. This does not happen in many other countries and the family often loses a lot of money and time without much use.

Since 2004, we have increased the medical service from Jordan to Yemen, including exporting Jordanian-made medicines to Yemen, by at least 60 percent. We also provide grants for medical treatment mostly in cases of heart diseases and cancer. We have increased the number of slots given to the Ministry of Health to 65 in addition to five medical treatment grants to the Ministry of Interior.

You have also initiated a new agreement with the Ministry of Endowment. Could you tell us about this?

I have tried to improve relations and cooperation between Yemen and Jordan on so many levels, and it would not be surprising to include religious agreements in the process. In a few days, our Minister of Endowment will be visiting Yemen to participate in the inauguration of the Saleh Mosque. We also have bilateral agreements on training and exchange of expertise with the ministry and we hope to be of help in the establishing of the Sharia College affiliated with the Saleh Mosque.

More so, Jordan has provided Yemen with a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory to help restore the ancient Yemeni manuscripts. This lab is run by Jordanian experts and moves around the country providing support in maintaining Yemeni history and its rich scripture legacy. The laboratory has been so successful that restored documents are in amazing shape, which hopefully will allow them to be studied and seen by many more generations to come.

We have also arranged for high-level Jordanian delegations in media, construction and other sectors to visit the country soon, and hopefully more cooperation would result from these visits.

What about military relations, especially since the two countries have had a long history of political and military cooperation?

We have had several military delegations exchange visits. Just last year, chief of Jordan's special operations command, Brigadier General Jamal Al-Shawabkeh visited Yemen. And the Yemeni General Brigades Authority for training and academic establishments' director Ali Saeed Obaid travelled to Amman last August this year.

Our experts visited the machinery grave yard in Nuqum last year and resurrected dead machinery to make them operational. It was a display of what we can do for both military and civilian projects in Yemen.

Jordan has one of the most developed military systems in the region in terms of high quality equipments and training. The King Abdullah II Design and Development (KADDB) Bureau provides both military and civilian facilities and services and covers the Jordan market as well and assists other countries such as Yemen in military and civilian quests.

Representing the defense 'think tank' for Jordan and the technology partner of choice for the Middle East and North Africa, the bureau's experts have visited Yemen on several occasions and demonstrated how they can help Yemen's military and civilian projects.

KADDB showcased its latest products of military and civilian machinery in the Special Forces Operations Defense Exhibition SOFEX 2008, between March and April this year. SOFEX 2008 is said to have been the largest Special Operations and Homeland Security Exhibition and Conference to date in the Middle East and North Africa Region.