About the Author: Christopher Runyan serves in the Office of Deputy Secretary of State Jacob J. Lew.
During a recent visit to the Middle East, Deputy Secretary Lew discussed critical regional issues including Middle East peace, assistance and reform with Jordan's King Abdullah, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Planning Minister Jafar Hassan on February 15 in Amman. Following his meeting, Deputy Secretary Lew visited two USAID projects to see U.S. assistance in action.
Both sites, a school and a hospital, were in Sahab, an industrial town just southwest of Amman in need of assistance to upgrade its educational and health services infrastructure. We first visited the construction site of the Sahab Basic Boys School which will provide a fully-equipped and operational school, currently lacking in the area. The students now attend classes in nearby apartments and homes, and lack basic science labs, computer equipment and other educational resources that will support a bright future for Jordan. The Deputy Secretary heard from community members, project implementers and a student on behalf of his classmates, on the value and first-hand benefits of USAID's six-year, $150 million Jordan School Construction and Rehabilitation Project launched in 2006 to build up to 31 new schools and rehabilitate 120 schools throughout Jordan.
The Deputy Secretary then visited the Dr. Jamil Tutanji Hospital, which serves a population of approximately 800,000 and has about 3,500 deliveries and 370 admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit yearly. The United States Government, through USAID, funded the renovation of the maternity and obstetrical ward and installation of vital equipment in the neonatal unit of the hospital as part of our Health Systems Strengthening Project. The renovation work is a living example of USG support to improve maternal and child health care in Jordan.
The visit to Jordan was concluded with our meeting with a wide range of NGO leaders to discuss the latest developments in Jordan on political and economic reform, women's rights, and refugee issues.
Deputy Secretary Lew also made his first visit to Cairo on February 16. He met with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboulnaga, Minister of Higher Education Hany Halal, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wafaa Bassim, and civil society leaders. The meetings discussed a broad range of issues, including the U.S. assistance program to Egypt and how the U.S.-Egyptian partnership can best support education, training, and technological development priorities in Egypt.
Deputy Secretary Lew also visited two USAID-supported projects, the Egyptian Patent Office and the Commercial Registry Office, to get a firsthand look at how the longstanding U.S.-Egyptian partnership is promoting entrepreneurship, economic growth and intellectual property rights protection. At the Commercial Registry Office, we saw how U.S. assistance has helped modernize the business registration process for entrepreneurs. Obtaining a business license in Egypt used to take as much as six weeks. Today, that process can be done in as little as thirty minutes. At the Egyptian Patent Office, similar efficiencies are the result of a $2 million partnership with the Government of Egypt. Patent applications are now accepted online and are adjudicated in almost half the time it used to take. But efficiency is not the only result. The Egyptian Patent Office has become one of only 17 intellectual property offices worldwide authorized to examine Patent Cooperation Treaty patent applications, establishing Egypt as a regional leader in promoting and protecting innovation and research in the Arab world.