AMMAN — Jordan is working to secure 144 million euros in European financing to improve sanitation and access to water in Irbid, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Imad Fakhoury announced on Monday.

The plan is in line with the outcomes of the London donor conference in February, Fakhoury said half of the funds for the water project would be secured through grants from the EU and the German Development Bank (KfW), according to a ministry statement.

During a workshop in Irbid, some 80km north of Amman, to review progress in the Executive Development Programme 2016-2018, the minister said the remaining funds would be obtained through soft loans from KfW and the French Development Agency (AFD).

The project aims to address challenges in water distribution in Irbid and Ramtha, increase the amount of treated water available for irrigation and power generation, connect new areas to the water grid and provide enough water to serve the communities hosting Syrian refugees, he explained.

The contract for the project is set to be signed in the last quarter of 2016, and the Water Ministry will start work on the project in early 2017, Fakhoury added.

He said that work was also under way to secure 42 million euros from the EU for a sewerage project in eastern Irbid, most of which will be sourced from grants, with the remainder secured as soft loans.

The minister said that the total value of projects and government interventions in Irbid this year stood at JD142.7 million as part of the 2016-2018 governorate development programme, the statement said.

The government has started developing policies and programmes to enhance the work of institutions funding small- and medium-sized enterprises, the statement said.

The workshop in Irbid was held as part of the government’s efforts to raise awareness of funding programmes and institutions’ supporting projects that generate job opportunities in the governorate, according to the ministry.

Fakhoury said his ministry conducted a set of interventions to implement productive projects for the local community, the value of which stood at JD10.737 million.

The government launched a new programme worth JD25 million through the Development and Employment Fund to boost support to young people becoming self-employed, according to the minister.

The government also increased the financial allocations to loans in the governorates to create more job opportunities, which would improve people’s living conditions, according to the minister.

Fakhoury said the government will establish a fund for creative projects in order to contribute to the capitals of start-ups.

The fund will be headquartered at the Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation, where it will be run by a committee from the private sector, he added.

Waqf (Islamic endowments) projects and investment pockets will also be supported by the government through Islamic funding, issuing more Islamic sukuk (bonds), developing the social safety grid, focusing support to productive projects and supporting people with disabilities and underprivileged families, to change their situation from consumerism to productivity, the minister said.

In light of the “huge lack” of Jordanian workers in the agriculture and construction sectors, Fakhoury said the government will work to increase the ratio of Jordanians in the workforce in these sectors to 25 per cent by 2018.

Managers and secretaries of various funds spoke during the meeting about the plans and programmes of their institutions, with the participation of charitable societies, military retirees and representatives of youth and women movements.