Jordan retains finance minister Mohamad Al Ississ in new cabinet – officials

Adds details and background

AMMAN, Oct 12 (Reuters)Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohamad Al Ississ will keep his job in a new cabinet due to be sworn in later on Monday, underlining the country’s commitment to ambitious economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund, officials said.

Harvard-educated Al Ississ, who has won IMF praise for his handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic,helped negotiate a four-year IMF programme worth $1.3 billion, approved in March, that signalled confidence in Jordan’s reforms.

The IMF deal will enable Jordan to access more than $3 billion in cheaper financing through concessionary loans and grants from its major Western donors that will help soften the effects of COVID-19 on its economy, they said.

Jordan’s economy is expected to shrink by more than 5.5% this year, the sharpest contraction in two decades. Before the pandemic struck, the IMF had estimated economic growth of 2%.

The country’s public finances and balance of payments have been strained by the collapse of tourism, a major source of foreign currency, and lower remittances from workers overseas.

Unemployment hit a record 23% in the second quarter as layoffs and bankruptcies increased and poverty deepened in an aid-dependent country that was already struggling before the pandemic.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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