Despite the many antipoverty programs of the 1990s, poverty has persisted among hundreds of thousands of Jordanians. A program launched in May 2002 by His Majesty King Abdullah II, however, has improved service delivery to the poor in Jordan. Funded by USAID and designed and developed by Nathan Associates, the National Strategy for Poverty Alleviation takes a holistic approach to alleviating poverty by establishing a social safety net to deal with poverty at all levels while boosting the skills and resources of Jordan’s poorest.
So far, this strategy has led to:
- Better service delivery,
- More assistance to National Aid Fund (NAF) beneficiaries,
- Encouragement of family planning,
- Greater ability of the educational system to meet the needs of the poor,
- Better access to health services,
- Incentives for the near-poor to save more and improve their upward mobility,
- Increased job opportunities in rural and secondary towns, and
- Promotion of sustainable micro-financing.
Method and Team Building
Working with Her Excellency the Minister of Social Development, Nathan Associates surveyed Jordan’s anti-poverty projects and examined data from the 1997 Household Expenditure and Income Survey and World Bank estimates.
We then identified an immediate need for a social safety net for the poorest of the poor and three areas requiring improvement: employment opportunities, access to education, and access to healthcare. All stakeholders ministries, government bodies, the private sector, civil societies, international organizations, and donors were included in our discussions to expedite work.
To ensure progress, Jordan’s cabinet appointed a steering committee headed by the Minister of Social Development.
The Nathan-managed project did not disperse cash assistance funds but ensured that the radical overhaul and improvement in the delivery of social services freed the resources of the Government of Jordan to reach more families eligible for assistance and bring them to the official poverty line.
In addition to the social safety net, tangible results were achieved through:
- Family Income Supplement Program. Replacing a cash assistance program, this program links training and employment and emphasizes work, making it more financially attractive than welfare alone. The FIS disregards a portion of earned income to close the gap between that income and the poverty line. Under JPAP, benefits were increased to the poverty line for each family up to six members.
- Improved service delivery. When the strategy was first launched, the NAF served 30 percent of the poor. It now reaches nearly 40 percent, and has lifted 193,000 persons to the poverty line. Benefits will reach all of the poorest of the poor as more government resources become available.
- NAF Reorganization. We transformed the NAF into a fiscally responsible organization with new management and a better structure, delivery mechanisms, information technology, financial systems, and internal procedures.
- NAF Database. The database identifies beneficiaries of cash assistance, eliminating duplicates, and expediting applications. When it reaches national scope, it will track Jordan’s poor, including those who might not be receiving services, and will link to the Civil Status and Passport Department and the Social Security Corporation.
- Poverty Mapping. Using geographic information systems, our statistician produced maps showing poverty at the governorate level based on the 1997 Household Income and Expenditure Survey. The first of their kind, these maps are invaluable to all poverty-related initiatives.
- Health Awareness Program. This program is training women in family planning and reproductive health and creating a network for outreach and information dissemination.
Nathan Associates also assisted the Ministry of Labor with a needs assessment and a strategy for training the poor for employment. We facilitated coordination of the Ministry of Social Development, the NAF, and the Ministry of Labor so that training and employment programs can better focus on NAF beneficiaries and others living below the poverty line.
The major achievement of our assistance to the Ministry of Labor is the National Employment Center.
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