Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz sits in the front room of his family home in a middle-class Amman neighborhood of traditional white stone houses with small gardens and low walls. Unusually, in a region where senior officials typically live in gated compounds far from public view, the residential street has been kept open to traffic to minimize disruption to Razzaz’s neighbors.
Razzaz, an MIT and Harvard-educated economist, was appointed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to head a new government two years ago, following anti-government protests that were sparked by IMF-mandated tax increases seen as bypassing the rich. Although he’d served previously as education minister, Razzaz was seen as a relative outsider.
The small, resource-poor kingdom is surrounded by dangers from neighboring countries: a war in Syria, conflict between the U.S. and Iran in Iraq, and Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank it occupies — something Jordan says poses a danger to the entire region.
But those issues have taken a back seat to controlling the coronavirus — a feat Jordan has accomplished with an early and severe lockdown. The country of roughly 10 million has registered 1,131 coronavirus cases, with 11 deaths.