MINISTER OF TRANSPORT
Jordan 2016 I Transport I Leader
BIOGRAPHY He holds a B.Sc. in business administration from the United States International University (1983) and has been the Chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Industry as well as Chairman and partner of many national companies such as Carbonate, Silica, Al Ferdous for Housing. He was the Deputy Chairman of Jordan Enterprise and Chairman of Jordan Exporters Association.
OUR DOORS ARE WIDE OPEN TO RECEIVE IDEAS FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND ALSO TO DISCUSS THEIR NEEDS AND TRY TO SOLVE THEIR ISSUES AND THOSE OF THE LOCAL TRANSPORT IN JORDAN.
WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY TO REDUCE THE CHALLENGES IN THE TRANSPORT SECTOR?
We are facing major challenges, in particular the closure of the borders in the north, with the Nasib border crossing, as well as Trebil with Iraq. This has negatively affected not only the transport sector, and in particular the shipments of cargo and passengers from Jordan to Syria, Lebanon, and to the Balkan countries, as much as it has also affected negatively all our exports by land from Jordan to Iraq and its main cities through Trebil.
Unfortunately, these issues are all external crises that we cannot do anything about. Previously Jordan has never closed its borders with any country regardless of the reason. Meanwhile we have had to find alternative routes for our cargo, and so have utilized the Aqaba port in order to facilitate the cargo shipments as much as we can, despite the extra costs to our industry and exporters. I was in Aqaba last week and I was very pleased to have learned that about 40,000 containers had left to Iraq and Lebanon as an alternative route. We are hoping that these borders will reopen soon, and particularly Trebil once the political crises eases, then we can resume our transit shipments to Iraq as normal.
HOW CAN AQABA ACHIEVE ITS FULL POTENTIAL TO BECOME A MAJOR HUB FOR LOGISTICS?
We should always consider that every time we face any type of challenge, or even when everything is stable, we should always improve all our services, particularly in Aqaba. Considering that 70 percent of our trade is coming and going through the Aqaba Container Terminal —exports and imports—we are working hard to improve all our services. Today, we have a very successful example with the Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) that is being handled perfectly. We have to salute them for all the services that they are providing.
We have to find all the means and tools to improve ourselves. We don’t stop and we should never stop. We have the Aqaba Port Corporation—that works on the general cargo, unlike the ACT which specializes in the container side—that was recently transformed by a cabinet decision into a company. We are hopeful this will improve services. We also have the liquid gas terminal in Aqaba as well as all the logistics terminals. Aqaba should be utilized as a hub not only to serve Jordan but also our neighboring countries as a transit port. It is the only point of entry when it comes to cargo in Jordan. We used to have exporters and importers using other ports on the Mediterranean through either Beirut or Latakia, all this has been halted completely. Currently Iraq is benefiting from Aqaba. In some cases Aqaba could also be used to serve the Red Sea ports in Saudi Arabia.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT UPCOMING PROJECTS FOR THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT?
Transportation here is divided into passenger transportation, cargo, and commodities, land, sea, and airfreight. We have talked a lot about a national rail network in Jordan. This is again a big challenge due to the high cost. We are trying to seek companies on a BOT basis, whereby they can come and undertake the project. We have to prepare the infrastructure and the proper routing to link Jordan with Saudi Arabia, and with Syria later on after they are out of the crisis. It can be linked to Europe as well.
This is one of the most ambitious programs. What we have here is the old Hijazi rail, and we are trying to utilize this same route because it is a very high cost project anyway; we are talking about a couple of billions of dollars and therefore we are asking our friends worldwide to come in on a BOT basis. We are doing it in two ways: a tendering process and through personal contacts. His Majesty’s visits to international communities, particularly China and South Korea, which are the two main countries that showed great interest and are willing to come and finance this project. In the end, it all depends on the payback period, no one will come to invest in any sector, particularly in the transport sector, if there’s no feasibility.
The Ministry of Transport has already designed the BRT service from Zarqa to Mahatta in Amman. This will transport some 500,000 passengers and rather than a 45-minute journey, it will drop it down to 20 minutes which will reduce and lower the congestion caused by people who are using their own private cars. We have already started the tendering process, the infrastructure has started with phase one, and we are hopeful that this project will be completed by the end of 2017. Many companies showed interest in operating the service, both international, including the Turks and Germans, and local.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE INVESTMENT INCENTIVES IN THE TRANSPORT SECTOR?
The private sector themselves know better than anybody else what suits them best. Our doors are wide open to receive ideas from the private sector and also to discuss their needs and try to solve their issues and those of the local transport in Jordan. It’s always good to utilize the know-how of our friends from the Arab countries in particular, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that have both done a lot to develop their public transport systems.