We’d like you to meet Razan Quossous! Razan is an economic growth expert with 20 years of experience, including private sector development and increasing access to finance. Now the business enabling environment component leader for a tourism project in Jordan, Razan shares her insights on how development work can spur economic growth to improve lives. Razan is one reason #DevelopmentWorksHere.
1. Can you tell us about your background in private sector engagement and what draws you to development work?
After graduating from the University of Jordan, I worked in the water and wastewater sector with leading Jordanian consulting firms. Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita in the world. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the government identified the water sector as a national priority. With donor support, domestic agencies introduced modern schemes for improving water delivery and distribution. These schemes included engaging the private sector in the management, operation, and maintenance of water distribution networks and commercializing water utilities. This was when I was first exposed to private sector engagement models, which I realized could help increase efficiencies, reduce poverty, spur growth, and improve lives. Market-based approaches and investment are crucial to advance countries’ social and economic progress. This realization prompted me to move into development.
My 20-year development career has focused on promoting economic growth through improved business environments, public-private partnerships, community-led investments, decentralization, infrastructure development, and service delivery improvements. I’m always amazed by how collaboration between the government, private sector, and civil society organizations can reduce poverty and promote economic growth. On the USAID Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism (BEST) project, for instance, I work closely with many stakeholders — including government, non-government, and private sector partners — to promote competitiveness and attract investment. Our work has led to more than $36 million worth of investment for tourism firms and more than 300 new jobs.
It has been rewarding to see how collaborative work catalyzes investments, empowers local governments in Jordan, inspires citizen confidence, enhances the revenue of fiscally constrained local governments, and leads to more sustainable outcomes.
2. What makes you believe that development works?
I have seen development work within Jordan’s tourism sector. Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Jordan, comprising nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Economic growth and job creation in this sector are critical for Jordan’s future. Meanwhile, owners of small and medium-sized tourism enterprises are trying to expand and flourish, but they face a major obstacle: They cannot obtain bank loans.
Historically, many Jordanian tourism businesses have not had access to loans because banks consider the sector to be risky. Businesses’ abilities to repay loans relies heavily on Jordan’s political and economic situations, which fluctuate. Additionally — and very importantly — many Muslim business owners face the challenge of finding Sharia-compliant loans.
BEST is collaborating with the Jordan Investment Commission, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Jordan Tourism Board, business associations, the banking sector, and loan guarantee programs to present attractive investment packages to investors. We’ve successfully attracted new investments to tourism, leading to job creation and enhanced tourism products and experiences.
We’ve also established new tourism loan products, including ones that are Sharia-compliant for the first time in Jordan. These loans address two of the biggest limitations for these businesses, and, with this new funding, Jordan’s tourism industry will have various financing options, permitting sector growth.
It has been rewarding to hear about how restaurant owners in Irbid and Zarqa, for example, were able to start or grow their businesses from the work we’re doing. Whereas some of these restaurateurs previously didn’t have access to financing options, we’ve allowed them to access investment incentives and low interest rate loans.