The prime minister met informally with the parliament last Thursday to explain the plans to sell the new army headquarters and possibly the King Hussein Medical Center. Here are the main points:
1- The government puts the welfare of the citizen above all else blah blah blah.
2- The government commits to be transparent, frank and open blah blah blah.
3- The government has formed a guiding committee to look into using all state lands and what to do with them.
4- The government’s priority is to lure investments, and not erecting buildings or residential areas.
5- But, if the government fails in luring job-producing investments, what are they to do? The government must facilitate investments as dictated by the investors. I don’t understand the logic. If investments don’t help the economy, why should the government facilitate them?
6- Investors told them they want to open regional offices in Amman because of it’s access to Iraqi markets and because it is cheaper than Dubai.
7- The government studied what buildings investors might like and decided that the new army headquarters might fit the bill. Going back to point 5, will these offices be staffed by Jordanians or by representatives of the multi-national companies that will occupy them?
8- They haven’t sold anything, yet.
9- The lying rumor mongers spread lies that the deal has been done.
10- The Social Security Corporation will be “leading the investment”. Previously, the minister of labor, Bassem Salem, who is also the head of the SSC board, said that the corporation will establish a company with a capital of 100 million dinars for this purpose. He also said that they will have “strategic partners”. Now, the lowest estimate for the value of the property has been put at 2 billion. So, the SSC company will have capital to cover 5% of the value of the property. Of course, you can’t but a Hyundai with a 5% down-payment. Who are they kidding? Anyway…
11- Jordanians will have priority in the investment (presumably unlike the Aqaba deal).
12- The SSC will seek funding through “Islamic bonds”. More on Mullah Nader’s Talibani stances in a future post, although I have mentioned one aspect earlier. BTW, it is not his business how the SSC funds its projects or for him to impose his ideological preferences on it.
13- If no Jordanian investor has 2 billion dinars laying around, and the Islamic bonds are too expensive, then the will seek foreign investors in a “transparent open process”.
14- They will “discuss” with the army medical services (who run the KHMC) whether they would like to move to a God forsaken corner of the Jordanian desert or not. It will be purely up to them. Right.
15- In any case, the medical services will still do their job, wherever they are.
16- Everybody should seek non-conventional solutions for the economic situation. Of course, he gives himself too much credit here. There is nothing non-conventional or innovative about this. Most Jordanians have sold their properties to cope with financial difficulties. In the long-run, they lost their assets and spent the money.
17- The money will be used to build a new medical center and to pay off some of the country’s outstanding debt (how much is, of course, left vague).
18- The scheme will create jobs and help the economy blah blah blah.
19- We should trust them. To me, I would say that I have no ideological issue with holding on to any property, as long as the deal will help improve the economy and create jobs. On the other hand, this long statement not withstanding, the whole scheme does not make any sense. Clearly, the involvement of the SSC is for cosmetic purposes (a fig leaf, if you will). The Islamic bonds scheme seems to be the key. Who can object to Islamic bonds? That would be, well, un-Islamic. My guess is that the Imarati investors will come in through this door, which, as I said, I have no problem with although I resent the insult to my intelligence.And how much will it cost to build new army headquarters and a new medical center? Construction costs have skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Of course, massive projects provide for opportunities for massive kick-backs. Sorry. I didn’t say that. Anyway, the discussion after the meeting was interesting as well. More on that later.