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.

Dubai metro elevated track

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.

Dubai metro

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.



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14 responses to “Jordan misses the train, literally! Can we learn something from Dubai?”

  1. Saharbi Avatar

    What do we expect from a country with world-class citizens run by corrupt retards? nothing but missed opportunities and failures. Hamza Hospital, for example, has become a depressing symbol of Jordan’s chronic inabilty to move forward. The same hospital staff, if relocated to Dubai, will most likely shine and excel. Let’s face it. We have a catastrophic failure of leadership in Jordan. This failure permeates the public sector which has dragged down the private sector along with it. The same problem applies to most Arab countries. Corruption causes economic and political failures causing poverty and unemployment and brain drain. Without democracy and self-determination for the Arabs, only a miracle from Allah can save us.

  2. ASKAdenia Avatar

    أسمحلي أعلق بالعربي

    المشكلة بالأردن مش مشكلة فلوس كأولوية أولى, ممكن بأكم من قرض من البنك الدولي أو أي دولة أنه ينعمل المشروع

    لكن المشكلة عنا بالضغوط الكبيرة من مالكي خطوط الباصات على خط عمان الزرقا, هدول الهم ضغط ع الحكومة وهم سبب فشل الفكرة من فترة طويلة
    وقدرو أنه يعطلو الموضوع عدة سنوات لانه عندهم ضغط عن طريق الناس الي من طرفهم سواء في البرلمان او مراكز القرار بشكل عام


  3. Joladies Avatar

    A friend had 5 days to move out of his building recently because of this line. He knew he would have to go but also knowing how time in Jordan goes on and on thought he would leave it until the project really happened! Then bam! 5 days to move, which he did and now he could probably have stayed another few years!! What a shame. T

  4. Joseph Avatar

    Great post, I especially like your concluding phrase!

  5. Bilal Avatar

    This is what happen when we look always for the cheapest. Awarding the contract to the lowest bidder is not always the best solution.

  6. Ahmad Al-Sholi Avatar
    Ahmad Al-Sholi

    No one is blaming, who feels dubai give him much and can go there will open space for people in line..

  7. Ali Al Khalil Avatar
    Ali Al Khalil

    It’s truly a sad story… I’m not a passive person, and I believe each and every individual can make a change and should be doing all he can all the time… But in this case, I have to say (excuse me if I want to add one more train pun) I cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel, since the tunnel is yet to be dug!
    I think we should start by electing a parliament that represents people, and then make the municipality or the ministry of public work (or whatever they call it) accountable truly to this parliament… Somebody has to be held accountable for this contractual mess… But unfortunately, people lost hope and they simply do not care, so they do not show up on elections’ day, and then spend the next 4 years complaining… Well, those people should not complain when we end up with a parliament that is so detached from the people it is supposed to represent!

  8. Batir Wardam Avatar
    Batir Wardam

    You can never rule out the option of corruption. The second ranked bidder (A Kuwaiti company) has still maintained its financial obligations for the offer they submitted for the governemnt even 6 months after it lost out the competition. This is strange. Why should a company maintain its financial obligation unless it knows it will be back in the race after a while?

  9. nasimjo Avatar

    Well… the problem is always the PTRC’s hand apparently!
    just for your info, this Chinese-Pakistani-Jordanian company that won the bid consists of the following:
    a Pakistani construction company,
    a Chinese steel supplier,
    and a Jordanian Real estate dealer (a.k.a semsar!)

    Where is the train in the whole thingy!
    I personally declared infront of several people the fact that this project WILL NOT see light if the bid keeps tied to this alliance.

    the financial guarantee limit was extend over 4 times by the PTRC, since the jordanian semsar dude had his connections, that is, until Mr Batayneh took over the ministry of transportation, and obligated the PTRC dudes to stick a certain date limit for it, as well as make the 2nd winner in the bid (The Kuwaiti Al-Noor with the Spanish Trains Company alliance) to provide a percentage of the financial guarantee just in case the 1st will be shove out.

    This is the explanation of it Mr Batir, since you asked.

    Of course, this time the PTRC guys had to obey to the minister’s rules. and that was the end of the 1st alliance’s joke.

    Does any know around here that Siemens Trains were refused to get into the bid because of a silly reason! They provided an electronic presentation copy of the infrastructure and trains, instead of a printer one!!

  10. M Avatar

    You just said it in that last statement. Nothing more nothing less. No one wants to wait for a train that is never going to come.

  11. mesh3al elfayez Avatar
    mesh3al elfayez

    hahah you make me laugh,,, you are comparing Jordan to Dubai… first of all Dubai has got money and oil. they can bring anyone to their lands becuase of their money! engineers from everywhere on earth! even americans would leave the states to work for dubai in this period… because of the money we are a tiny country with no natural ressources but a greater culture than the emirati! first point
    second point : why do u guys always compare to dubai.. we are most likely to be the next shining country in the middle east.. because the gulf will soon be out of oil! which means no more smart foreigners and investors there. all the projects in dubai are by emirati people. all the projects in jordan are from international investors because of the location and security and importance of jordan in the region. what i say will be confirmed in a few decades.. inshallah.. you will all see
    and one more thing.. just compare us to morocco tunisia algeria egypt lybia soudan syria lebanon iraq palestine and even saudi arabia and oman! we are way better than them i live in saudi arabia.. i hope that one day you guys will come n visit it… it’s so pathetic they like have half of the oil reserves in here but are unable to build one thing.. would you believe that in ksa… there r only 3 bridges??? for a popluation of 25 million inhabitants… i dont think you would.
    would you believe that more than 50% are illeterate? i dont think you would!
    would you believe that there are only 2 mobile operators for this 25 millions people?? and we (poor country always blamed) have 4!for 7 million inhabitants!!
    would you believe that more than 70% of the population here have an income below the average???? and that only some thousands are allowed to touch the money gained by oil trading??? i dont think you WILL????!!
    would you believe that ???
    would you believe women don’t drive?people never had the chance to vote?they never had a parliament… that’s cool eh??

    anyway.. with all the projects i see in the newspapers… i can tell we will be the future attraction to the whole arab world… because all these projects need employees… and tourism is getting more and more important every year.. especially that Petra is one of the new 7 wonders now!!
    God bless our king and queen… and bless our population…
    we will make it inshallah!

  12. Dean Avatar

    I am so with you brother on everything you wrote

    it is quite sad and depressing,as you said,to see such things happening,and that is the reason why my parents have lived here in Australia for over 30 years and myself ive been here 20 years,which is all my life,ive been to jordan on holiday a couple of times in the past several years and,yes i do love jordan,but not to he extent of to actually live there because of the way of life thats in jordan,everyone there just seems depressed,down-ridden,broke etc it just breaks ma heart to see that
    i sincerely hope jordan starts moving forward soon,or i swear Uganda will seem like heaven to us
    God Bless

  13. Dean Avatar

    And i just want to add one more thing:lets not throw all the blame on the government!

    God Bless

  14. Nagham Avatar

    it is the same in all countries ,
    I work on some LRT line and it is the same problems .
    good luck for Jordan