(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The Kingdom was not the preferred destination for affluent Syrians, business leaders told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
Economic sectors expected businesses in the Kingdom to boom due to the large influx of Syrians over the past few months, but nothing has changed.
According to Alaa Eddine Diraniyeh, head of the Jordan Exchanges Association, capital inflow from Syria into Jordan was very limited because of strict anti-laundering and anti-terrorism laws followed by Jordan's banking sector.
Noting that money changers benefited from a slight improvement in the business due to Syrians, he said: "We were expecting larger operations as thousands of Syrians came to the country, but the rich neighbours chose to reside in other Arab countries, mainly the United Arab Emirates."
Describing demand on the Syrian currency, whose exchange rate on Monday was 102 liras per JD1, as very weak, Diraniyeh added that only poor and middle-income Syrians fled to the Kingdom.
"The vast majority of the people who came to Jordan were middle income and poor families," said Abu Jamal who did not hesitate to leave his home in the southern Syrian city of Deraa to settle temporarily in Jordan nearly seven months ago.
As he only owned a grocery store to worry about, the 50-year-old man told The Jordan Times that he opted to escape the violent crackdown of Bashar Assad regime just like many Syrians who are leaving their houses and businesses.
Abu Jamal, who preferred not to give his full name fearing for his life, fled to the Kingdom with his five-member family as official figures put the number of Syrians that have entered Jordan since the uprising started over a year ago at around 100,000 people.
Tariq Tabbaa, member of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Diraniyeh saying that the majority of Syrians who came to Jordan used to have difficult economic conditions.
The well-off have either remained in the unrest-hit country or went to other countries, the merchant said, indicating that the commercial sector in Jordan is witnessing a severe slowdown.
Sales of shopping centres have not picked up recently to enable us attribute that to the influx of Syrians, he said.
Even sales of residential apartments did not go up as predicted by some analysts who forecast a boost due to expected demand by Syrians.
According to Zuhair Omari, president of the Housing Investors Association, trading in the real estate sector is even going down.
"There is no obvious activity by Syrians in the property market," Omari said, indicating that demand for renting apartments may have picked up over the past weeks as the number of Syrians fleeing to the Kingdom has increased sharply.
Jordanians represent 65 per cent of property buyers, followed by Iraqis and Saudis, he explained.
Ahmad Amaari, director of a housing company in northern city of Irbid which borders Syria, echoed the remarks of Omari.
Demand on residential apartments in Irbid is for rent and mainly by students from Gulf countries, he indicated, saying that affluent Syrians who came to Jordan settled in the capital.
Libyans seeking medical treatment here have been a boon for several Jordanian economic sectors, according to business owners, although their number is about half the Syrians who are taking refuge in the Kingdom.
Official figures show that over 50,000 Libyans have come to Jordan over the past months to receive medical treatment in Jordan's private hospitals.
The bills of Libyan patients to hospitals and hotels only exceed JD150 million.
Amer Rabei, owner of a grocery store in Tlaa Al Ali neighbourhood of Amman, said that sales have increased sharply because dozens of Libyans reside in a complex of furnished apartments near his store.
Workers at restaurants and large supermarkets also noted that Libyans have become regular customers to the businesses where they work at.
Mustafa, from the Syrian city of Homs, a major focal point for anti-government unrest and the hardest hit by the bloody crackdown by the state, said he will stay in Jordan temporarily until protesters win their battle against the Assad regime.
"I used to work as a carpenter," Mustafa, who declined to give his last name, said, adding that the vast majority of people from his country who came to Jordan are not wealthy.
Many businesspeople cannot leave Syria for several reasons, he said. "Some of them don't want to leave their businesses, some are afraid to leave fearing for their lives from the regime, while others enjoy good ties with the government," he explained.