Friday, August 15, 2008

Transferred prisoners to be released

Finally, the government has announced that Sultan Ajlouni, Amin Sani’ and Salem and Khaled Abu Ghalyoun are set to be released on August 20, and the Israeli authorities have been notified of this decision.

Previously, the government has hinted that they might not be released, citing objections from Israel and a desire not to jeopardize talks over release of other prisoners from Israeli jails.

But the Israelis failed to show any public interest in the issue. I have not heard nor read any official statements expressing any position at all, leaving the Jordanian government with a skeptical public to assert that Israel does, in fact, give a rat’s ass whether they are released or not. In the end, they decided to do the right thing, after trying their best not to.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Don't spend it all in one place

Jordanians have become commodities experts, carefully following the daily fluctuations in oil prices. So, over the past month, as oil prices have fallen precipitously, they have been waiting to see whether the government was honest about letting prices at the pump follow the oil price trends. Of course, the government has rigorously followed the world prices as they rose.

The poor souls actually believed that the government was good for its word. Humorist Ahmad Hassan Zoubi suggested a grand celebration to announce the lowering of prices, following the model of the New 7 wonders of the world. He also suggested that they invite Jennifer Lopez to sing at the ceremony, because “we have good luck with her”. He was of course referring to Petra winning in the New 7 wonders contest.

So now, the moment of truth has arrived. After world oil prices have fallen around 16% since the first week of July, this has translated to a 5% drop in prices at the pump. Yippee.

It is no secret that this whole thing is a scam. The government gets the oil at deep discounts and charges the consumer full price, plus taxes, pocketing the difference. They refuse to let competitors enter the market, because they are making too much money on this. Free economy be dammed.

But not to worry. Mullah Nader promises that if world prices stay the same, prices will be dropped again next month as well. The reason, we are told, is that prices are calculated based on daily averages. We are led to assume that importers buy commodities on a daily basis, without shopping around.

So, we will go through another round of complaining, and as usual the government will profess its total honesty on the issue. There may be some posturing by the opposition, followed by the government accusing them of “having no alternatives”. Of course, if the government was totally honest it would get out of the oil business and let the private sector do the job.