Q: How would a prime minister who is presiding over an economy with over 10% inflation, slow economic growth, failing public education and health services and an inability to execute any important public projects prove his worthiness? A: Demonstrate his piety. So, PM Dahabi cancelled a previously agreed upon contract with a British investor who wanted to open a casino in the Dead Sea area. Apparently, the opening of a casino offended his sense of propriety and dignity. He also managed to weasel out of a 1 billion dinar fine which was in the contract in case the government reneged on its end of the deal. The investor forfeited the fine in exchange for 1200 dunums in the Dead Sea and 150 dunums in the Shafa Badran area in northern Amman. A bargain. I mean, even if we paid the billion (and I mean WE in the real sense of the word) it is worth it to save ourselves from the evil of a CASINO.
In our happy kingdom, there is no gambling. Sure, you can put your money in savings account in the bank for less than 1% interest. Why would you do that? For a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE, of course. Why else would you forfeit 80% of your interest?
Or you can buy lottery tickets. The General Union for Voluntary Societies runs a lotto. So does the football federation and the basketball federation. All legal and sanctioned by the government. I mean, randomly choosing a paper with a number on it and hoping that the number matches what a randomized set of numbers is generated by machines is not gambling, is it?
In order to gamble, you need to go very far away. It is a 10 km boat trip from Aqaba to Taba. You can also take a 30 minute flight to Sharm el Sheikh or Cairo. They have casinos there. Of course, I am not saying anything that many of the MP’s feigning indignity over the casino don’t know first hand. But, in our kingdom of virtue, we can’t face up to the truth that people are not angels. Yes, many ministers, parliamentarians, business people and politicians go to Egypt and Beirut to gamble. Of course, none of them have the courage to admit it. Casinos are for countries with governments that have no sense of virtue.
Sure we have sweatshops where tens of thousands of foreign workers are overworked, underpaid and abused. This is ok. In the kingdom of virtue, there are no casinos, because we know what is proper and just. It is the government’s job to decide what is proper and just.
And while we are fretting at whether a project that might create a couple hundred jobs and revitalize a community most famous for having the highest rate to tuberculosis and Leishmaniasis in the country, other things are happening.The government sold the port of Aqaba for 5 billion dollars. We are assured that this is a good deal. The government is also planning to sell the land on which the King Hussein Medical Center resides for 2 billion dollars. Not to worry. A new medical center will be built in Madouneh, a leisurely two hour drive into the eastern desert. Our people deserve no less.But what will be done with the billions collected for selling this land? I am willing to bet that it will not reflect on our economy, infrastructure or services. Letting the government control this money is the biggest gamble of all. More on the land business later.