One of the dominant news stories in the papers recently, was the contractual disqualification of the Pakistani-Chinese-Jordanian joint venture to build the railway line between Amman and Zarqa. We’re literally missing the train, again. This contractual fiasco now will delay the building of the railway between Jordan’s largest cities even further. The Amman-Zarqa highway (also knows as the highway of death) will get more congested, polluted and deadly.
The contractor is being dismissed after failing to come up with the agreed on financial guarantees.
The project’s idea was conceived in 1998. The bidding process started in 2005. Now we’re in 2008 and not a single meter of tracks has been laid. Now the talk is of giving the contract to the bidder who came in 2nd place.
This is not even the first time the project is bid out. A first attempt resulted in only one bidder coming forward, who’s offer was disqualified.
This is depressing.
In the last two years, during my frequent visits to Duabi, I’ve been seeing the progress of the Dubai metro system. While we were waiting for bidders, disqualifying them and qualifying others, Dubai has almost finished building two lines of its metro system, which promises to be one of the most advanced in the world. The progress above the ground is impressive. Adjacent to the Sheikh Zayed Road to Jebel Ali, you can see the elevated track already in place. But what’s under the ground is equally impressive (although no one sees that). Tunnels have been dug, tracks laid and stations built. Opening time: 2009. See an impressive slide show here.
The comparison between Jordan and Dubai can be describes as “unfair”. Many people would say: “the have money, we don’t”.
But it seems it’s not just about money. I mean, the government want to build the Amman-Zarqa railway. That’s why there was a bid! But we keep getting bogged down by a million other things: bureaucracy? Working with the wrong partners? Slow decision making?
I once read an article in a newspaper that decried Jordan as a slow gazelle. We’re small. We have ideas. But then we don’t act on them. Others pick up the same ideas and run with them. The typical example is the Media City that was supposed to built in Jordan. Our dear parliament torpedoed the idea. Dubai did it.
The comparison may be unfair. But the fact is that, two and a half hours by plane from Amman, there is an Arab emirate called Dubai, which is fast and aggressive. It is where stuff is happening. Don’t blame our bright young people if they take jobs there or come back impressed.
They don’t want to waste their lives waiting for a train that never seems to come.