In the west, a highland area of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry drops suddenly into the Jordan Rift Valley. The rift valley contains the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which separates Jordan from Israel. Jordan has a 26 kilometres (16 mi) shoreline on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, but is otherwise landlocked. The Yarmouk River, an eastern tributary of the Jordan, forms part of the boundary between Jordan and Syria (including the occupied Golan Heights) to the north. The other boundaries are formed by several international and local agreements and do not follow well-defined natural features. The highest point is Jabal Umm al Dami, at 1,854 m (6,083 ft) above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea −420 m (−1,378 ft), the lowest land point on earth.
Jordan is classified by the World Bank as an “upper-middle income” country. However, approximately 14.4% of the population lives below the national poverty line on a longterm basis (as of 2010), while almost a third fell below the national poverty line during some time of the year—known as transient poverty. The economy, which has a GDP of $39.453 billion (as of 2016), grew at an average rate of 8% per annum between 2004 and 2008, and around 2.6% 2010 onwards. GDP per capita rose by 351% in the 1970s, declined 30% in the 1980s, and rose 36% in the 1990s—currently $9,406 per capita by purchasing power parity. The Jordanian economy is one of the smallest economies in the region, and the country’s populace suffers from relatively high rates of unemployment and poverty.
Jordan’s economy is relatively well diversified. Trade and finance combined account for nearly one-third of GDP; transportation and communication, public utilities, and construction account for one-fifth, and mining and manufacturing constitute nearly another fifth. Net official development assistance to Jordan in 2009 totaled US$761 million; according to the government, approximately two-thirds of this was allocated as grants, of which half was direct budget support.
The official currency is the Jordanian dinar, which is pegged to the IMF’s special drawing rights (SDRs), equivalent to an exchange rate of 1 US$ ≡ 0.709 dinar, or approximately 1 dinar ≡ 1.41044 dollars. In 2000, Jordan joined the World Trade Organization and signed the Jordan–United States Free Trade Agreement, thus becoming the first Arab country to establish a free trade agreement with the United States. Jordan enjoys advanced status with the EU, which has facilitated greater access to export to European markets. Due to slow domestic growth, high energy and food subsidies and a bloated public-sector workforce, Jordan usually runs annual budget deficits.
The Great Recession and the turmoil caused by the Arab Spring have depressed Jordan’s GDP growth, damaging trade, industry, construction and tourism. Tourist arrivals have dropped sharply since 2011. Since 2011, the natural gas pipeline in Sinai supplying Jordan from Egypt was attacked 32 times by Islamic State affiliates. Jordan incurred billions of dollars in losses because it had to substitute more expensive heavy-fuel oils to generate electricity. In November 2012, the government cut subsidies on fuel, increasing its price. The decision, which was later revoked, caused large scale protests to break out across the country.