Nation at a Glance - Jordan

History

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations awarded Britain the mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain demarcated a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s. The area gained its independence in 1946 and thereafter became The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The country's long-time ruler, King HUSSEIN (1953-99), 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 Six-Day War. King HUSSEIN in 1988 permanently relinquished Jordanian claims to the West Bank; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, King HUSSEIN's eldest son, assumed the throne following his father's death in 1999. He has implemented modest political and economic reforms, including the passage of a new electoral law in early 2016 ahead of legislative elections held in September. The Islamic Action Front, which is the political arm of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, returned to parliament with 15 seats after boycotting the previous two elections in 2010 and 2013.

Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia, between Israel (to the west) and Iraq

Border Countries: Iraq 179 km, Israel 307 km, Saudi Arabia 731 km, Syria 379 km, West Bank 148 km

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

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

Terrain: Mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates eastern and western banks of the Jordan River

Natural resources: Phosphates, potash, shale oil

Land use: Agricultural land: 11.4% arable land 2%; permanent crops 1%; permanent pasture 8.4% Forest: 1.1% Other: 87.5% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%

Languages: Arabic (official), English (widely understood among upper and middle classes)

Religions: Muslim 97.2% (official; predominantly Sunni), Christian 2.2% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), Buddhist 0.4%, Hindu 0.1%, Jewish <0.1, Folk religionist <0.1, Unaffiliated <0.1, Other <0.1 (2010 est.)

Population: 8,185,384

Literacy: 95.4%; Male: 97.7%; Female: 92.9% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 12 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); 'Ajlun, Al 'Aqabah, Al Balqa', Al Karak, Al Mafraq, Al'Asimah, At Tafilah, Az Zarqa', Irbid, Jarash, Ma'an, Ma'daba

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 unemployment and underemployment, budget and current account deficits, and government debt. King ABDALLAH, during the first decade of the 2000s, implemented significant economic reforms, such as expanding foreign trade and privatizing state-owned companies that attracted foreign investment and contributed to average annual economic growth of 8% for 2004 through 2008. The global economic slowdown and regional turmoil contributed to slower growth from 2010 to 2017 - with growth averaging about 2.5% per year - and hurt export-oriented sectors, construction/real estate, and tourism. Since the onset of the civil war in Syria and resulting refugee crisis, one of Jordan’s most pressing socioeconomic challenges has been managing the influx of approximately 660,000 UN-registered refugees, more than 80% of whom live in Jordan’s urban areas. Jordan’s own official census estimated the refugee number at 1.3 million Syrians as of early 2016. Jordan is nearly completely dependent on imported energy—mostly natural gas—and energy consistently makes up 25-30% of Jordan’s imports. To diversify its energy mix, Jordan has secured several contracts for liquefied and pipeline natural gas, developed several major renewables projects, and is currently exploring nuclear power generation and exploitation of abundant oil shale reserves. In August 2016, Jordan and the IMF agreed to a $723 million Extended Fund Facility that aims to build on the three-year, $2.1 billion IMF program that ended in August 2015 with the goal of helping Jordan correct budgetary and balance of payments imbalances.

Agriculture - products: Citrus, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, strawberries, stone fruits; sheep, poultry, dairy

Industries: Tourism, information technology, clothing, fertilizers, potash, phosphate mining, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refining, cement, inorganic chemicals, light manufacturing

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