By Fares Braizat, Mar 20,2022

What is the problem of and what is the solution for the Jordan rail project? This is being asked by many for very different reasons because rail is essential for all economic activities and subsequent social mobility.

Despite the strategic importance of the rail network for the economic growth and development of the country, the project has been accumulating stacks of papers and resultant broken promises, with no tangible results. More of the same is no longer acceptable. 

Although the Jordanian Investment Fund Law No. 16 of the year 2016 stipulated exclusive rights for the Fund to develop the rail, no tangible results are visible yet. The rationale for this exclusivity was to bypass all “perceived obstacles” and to “fast track” the construction of the national rail network with Saudi-Jordanian investment. The Saudi Jordanian Investment Fund Company (SJIF), which was established in 2017 under the articles of this law which is supposed to invest in infrastructure projects, including the rail, has not done so yet despite being operational for the past five years. Nothing was “fast tracked”. 

Since the investment clouds have not rained rails so far, we probably need to think of seeding other clouds to complement or replace the existing ones. For whatever reasons, SJIF moved on to other investments and it is not clear whether it will continue with the Aqaba – Maan (then Amman) stretch of the rail network.

In 2019, the US, the EU, Australia, Japan and Canada contributed a total of $2,393,673 to Jordan. This money was spent on a variety of important projects, some of which were agreed upon with the government of Jordan, while others were driven by donors’ agenda and priorities, which may be important, but are not necessarily priorities for Jordan. 

By all measures, the national rail remains one of the most important projects, if not the most important, for the sustainable revival of the economy, economic development, equitable distribution of opportunities, women economic empowerment, environmental protection, and competitiveness.

It is about time that a donor fund for the construction of the Jordan rail be formed jointly with a consortium of rail companies of major donor countries such as the US, Germany, France, and Japan. The government of Jordan, based on its priorities, would reallocate donor funds per priority to the “Jordan Rail Fund”. This will be the most significant economic empowerment project for Jordan, with meaningful, direct and positive impact on people’s lives.

Our biggest challenge today is economic, and at its core are the astronomical unemployment figures. The rail network project would help alleviate this pressure and preserve social cohesion.

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on March 20, 2022. For the original article source, click here