October 2 2022 6:43 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

The light train factory issue and transparency we need

The project proved successful, according to the report, and a source of pride for Jordanians seeing a fellow Jordanian accomplishing his life dream and contributing to the economic development of the
The project proved successful, according to the report, and a source of pride for Jordanians seeing a fellow Jordanian accomplishing his life dream and contributing to the economic development of the host country: Turkey. (Photo: Pxfuel)
In a rare happening, local social media activists have recently been sharing a Jordan TV-produced report covering the official opening of a factory established by a Jordanian businessman to build and sell light rail vehicles (LRV) worldwide.اضافة اعلان

The project proved successful, according to the report, and a source of pride for Jordanians seeing a fellow Jordanian accomplishing his life dream and contributing to the economic development of the host country: Turkey.

Let’s take a look back: The investor, identified as Mohammad Eid, was in Jordan a few years ago with the same idea and was interviewed by the same Jordan TV show, where he voiced tremendous enthusiasm to do something that would help his native country take a big stride into industrial production and go global.

Apparently, the man failed to sell his idea locally, when Jordan was struggling to build an LRV operating on the Amman-Zarqa route. That route is a bottleneck and has been since 1998, when a feasibility study was completed and received the green light.

Disappointed, the businessman, who together with his partners were ready to fund the entire venture, flew north. Within an hour he was in a country that embraced him and his idea and wasted no time. The LRV has recently been put to service to Eid’s and his hosts’ pride.

He even invited the same Jordan TV team that had interviewed him in Jordan to the inauguration ceremony. The show’s host, veteran journalist Amer Smadi, ended the episode with remarks lamenting the loss and leaving the issue hanging in the air for those to whom it might concern, without further investigation into who was behind such a failure.

That was it. No response from the government and no follow-up from the media: Just comments by social media users, the same we have been hearing all these decades, regardless of the platform.

This episode sums up Jordan’s foreign investment story: Promotion resulting in incoming projects wrapped in enthusiasm that stumble on rigid bureaucracy, followed by a significant portion of the investors packing up and leaving.

Details do not seem very relevant here because we have a good hunch of what happened: Corruption, a complicated process of doing business, hostile host communities, confusing legislation, a multiplicity of authorities, lack of coordination, etc. The list goes on.

What we need most is transparency and for the public and decision makers alike to be aware of what happens to investors when they come to Jordan and the formidable obstacles they face.

The media is key to a solution. What if a reporter is “embedded” in the process? What if mainstream media outlets join ranks, share the costs, and form a taskforce from their journalists to select certain foreign investors and offer coverage of every step they make till the project is fully operational, or totally defunct. The outcome of the coverage could be shared by these media organizations in print, online channels, TV, and radio in both Arabic and English. If all these organizations broadcast the production on the same day, on every available platform, imagine the impact!

At least, we can make sure that investors will be confident that their voices will be heard and their investments protected, and that officials will have the chance to clarify and justify themselves. Meanwhile, would-be investors will take these media materials as tutorials to learn from and adjust their plans, while authorities will make changes the system to ensure a more investor-friendly environment.

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