***We have updated this article in a new post, the deal was not a secret but the Jordanian government could lose billions for this disaster.
In a developing story, the Jordanian government has authorized the sale of the port of Aqaba to a foreign company for $500 million, with a transfer date scheduled for this month, December 2012. The estimated value of the Port of Aqaba is $5 billion. The Jordanian government planned to replace the current port with a new one that was supposed to have been completed by the transfer date, but the new port is not yet ready.
Jordan is already facing protests from fuel subsidy cuts, failed reform promises, unemployment, inflation and corruption. Last month, Jordan witnessed one of its biggest protests, dubbed “November Uprising”, in which for the first time the people called for King Abdullah’s resignation. On Friday, thousands of protesters gathered in Amman for a rally called “A Popular Uprising for Reform” headed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Obeidat, and backed by a broad coalition of opposition groups.
In an attempt to appease the people the Jordanian government vowed to arrest all officials who engage in “corruption.” All though the government promised all officials the truth is only one person was targeted, former head of intelligence, General Mohammad al Dahabi. Dahabi was sentenced to 13 years in jail and ordered to return $30 million.
Compared to this Aqaba port incident, $30 million is nothing. The corruption in Jordan has not come to a halt and this sale proves that the government continues to engage in large scale corruption. Dahabi and others to come are simply frivolous examples of how King Abdullah is “reforming” his country.
Not only is Jordan socially and politically unstable, but economically it is deteriorating with its $1.5 billion deficit last year – which is expected to be even larger this year. This newest incident means the government will also have to pay another $1 billion annually to a foreign entity until the new port is ready, putting the country even more in debt.
This is a scandal and should be taken very seriously.
What is clear is that the Jordanian government continues to make serious mistakes that threaten the already unstable country. Human Rights Watch has also tried to shed light on the oppressive regime by insisting, “Authorities should release all of those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to expression, association, and assembly.” This Aqaba deal is just more evidence of the corruption and oppression that exists in the country and more importantly shows how the government has once again robbed its people of money that in reality it doesn’t have.
How can one raise fuel-subsidies for the citizens but then engage in such a disastrous deal? There is no excuse, those who are running a country are held to a higher standard, and therefore must put their citizens above all else.
Is this the reform that King Abdullah promised?