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A Letter to His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan
1- In 1980 I was working as the "Secretary of the Engineering Advisory Committee", which was based at the Ministry of Commerce of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of the officials, asked, as a personal favor, to contact Mr. Adnan Suleiman Hassan Al-Amri (young at that time) in Riyadh after the death of his father, who was the Director of the Riyadh Monetary Agency, to assist him in managing the left-behind work. I learned that his late father was planning for many projects, including the idea of a "permanent exhibition," which he already began to prepare for and started a media campaign. I told him then that this project fits Jordan since it is in the heart of the Arab East World, and a vital link to the surrounding countries.
2- This idea coincided with the political trends in Jordan, when His Majesty late King Hussein, in the previous one or two years, directed his efforts towards Europe after his efforts to cooperate with USA to support Jordan came to a dead end. The idea matched with my new business idea to create the "Euro-Jordan Trade Village", to meet the urgent need for the EU to market their products, which constitute an important factor in the success of the European Union and the need of Jordan for a true partner to support the weak economy with low natural resources, while having a key geographical, economic, social and political position in the region.
3- In spite of the offers received in the last job at the Upscale Center at the Saudi American Bank and the offer of Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Sharqi, founder and chairman of the Arab Burundi Bank to represent the State of Burundi for Economic Affairs in the GCC, I decided to return to Jordan to start working on my project.
4- In Nov. 1988 I returned to Jordan after being conceived of the idea of the project and that the time is right to start preparing for it, especially after the collapse of the Jordanian dinar. Since the project required time to provide the political opportunity, I decided to prepare the infrastructure of human cadres, since the region -despite the availability of academically qualified peope- lack some special skills for such a project, especially in computers and communication skills. My decision was to establish a training center in computer science in the field of administration and finance.
5- Started searching for a suitable location for the project, with many options, until I found the land surrounding the King Hussein Air Academy, bounded to the south and west with international roads, to the North a railway (Hijazi Jordanian Railway). Our consultants thought that this land is hard to get without a decision by His Majesty the King. I told them "this is the easiest issue in the project", I was convinced that His Majesty would not hesitate to help.
6- I initiated the (Jerieh International Exhibition Corp.) to provide legal cover for the initial procedures.
7- In Sep. 1999, His Majesty King Abdullah II approved the EU-Jordan Association Agreement, and the time was appropriate to start. On 19 Sep. 1999 I sent a letter to His Majesty introducing the idea of the project, myself and the location, by a fax to the Royal Court and asked His Majesty to approve renting us the land. The idea of rent was to avoid officials' doubts that we intend to own the land, since the space required was about 16 million square meters (16 thousand acres), and asked for His Majesty's support and protection.
8- After about ten days I received a telephone call from HE the Head of the Economic Department at the Royal Court (then) Dr. Bassem Awadallah, who apologized for the delay and directed us to address the Chief of Joint Staff since the land we are requesting is under the jurisdiction of Jordanian Armed Forces, and requested me to keep him updated and to keep in touch.
9- On 02 Oct. 1999 we applied to the Chief of Joint Staff requesting to rent us the land.
10- During Dec. 1999 I received a telephone call from a committee at the Royal Jordanian Air Force Headquarters to participate in inspecting the desired location and the committee carried out its mission and gave us a technical feedback to be coordinated upon implementation, and thus the commission submitted its report to the concerned authorities.
11- On 23 Jan. 2000 we sent a letter to the Chief of Joint Staff for follow-up.
12- In the first week of February 2000 a meeting was held in the office of HE the Director of Military Housing (former) where we -as requested- made a presentation for the idea of the project and requested us to provide a summary of project, for feasibility purposes to submit to the officials. After the presentation, HE asked us about the rental fee that we expect, and our response was that what we expect the normal fees stipulated by law.
13- On 14 Feb. 2000 there was a meeting in the Office of the Director of Military Housing in the presence of our legal advisor. The discussion was, for the second time, about the value of rent and HE responded that the Military Housing Dept. does not want to rent the land, rather contribute as an equity in the project to achieve a benefit for the Military Investment Corporation, and requested a fully-fledged economic feasibility study for the project.
14- On 18 Feb. 2000 we sent a letter of our approval on the participation of the Military Investment Corp. as an equity equivalent to the value of the land.
15- On 28 May 2000 a meeting was held in the office of the Director of Military Housing (upon his request) and we stated that to start undertaking a feasibility study we need an approval regarding our position the land since the cost of the feasibility study will range from USD0.250 to 0.5 millions. He requested a summary of the preliminary study consisting of three pages to demonstrate the project's need of land, for the purposes of the preliminary assessment by the Jordanian Armed Forces to provide the required spaces.
16- We submitted a summary of project's requirements of land for the project with a preliminary site plan, which shows an initial idea of the project components, cost and size of the investment.
17- On 01 June 2000 we addressed the Chief of Joint Staff in an attempt to speed up the procedures.
18- On 05 June 2000 we addressed His Excellency the former European Commissioner Mr. James Moran, where Mrs. Martin Leveque -The former Economic Counsellor- called us and expressed the willingness of the commission in Amman to cooperate.
19- On 20 June 2000 we received a letter from the Director of Military Housing referring to our last two letters on 28 May and 01 June requesting us to submit an official fully-fledged feasibility study for the project and that they will continue with the appropriate action in light of that.
20- On 24 July 2000 a meeting was held in the office of the European Commission under the chairmanship of Mrs. Martin Leveque, the former Economic Counselor, and Mr. John Burns and Mr. Paul Gadegard of the Euro-Jordan Business Service Team with our financial consultant Dr. Ibrahim Abbasi, to discuss the necessary studies for the European market and the need to execute a European market survey to find out the expected number of companies to participate, for feasibility purposes.
21- We faced many delays from the engineering office, recommended by our financial consultant, to determine the cost of the first phase of the project, who was personally called to participate in planning the Aqaba Special Economic Zone. Also, stalling the feasibility study, where the researcher conducted a study based on Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), which we rejected. Finally, our company's architects prepared the initial site plan and the cost.
22- During the month of Dec. 2001, a meeting was held by the project engineer and the feasibility study consultant at the office of the former Director of Military Housing. Although the study was far from the reality of the project (Terms of Reference), but we had to submit a report thereon to explain why we were late in submitting the study, hoping to obtain an approval to establish the company with them to call the interested partners, financing or obtain an approval to rent us the land and start a study with a European consultant.
23- On 01 May 2002 the response of the armed forces was their willingness to support the project in the event proved to be serious.
24- We contacted many parties such as the Irish developers of Shannon Region to cooperate in studies and provide the necessary expertise, who confirmed their willingness to cooperate with us. Also contacted the European Institute for Economic Development in Vienna (EIED) who confirmed their willingness to raise the necessary funds and provide financial and management experience. Contacted the European Investment Bank to check the viability of our project for Venture Capital and their response was their willingness to offer a long-term financing with large amounts and cover all types of risks except commercial risk.
25- We continued intensifying communication with those interested in participation from the private sector, and we introduced the project to some potential local partners (Housing Bank, Union Bank), and members of the local investors and Global Funds, a German investment company, and others. The common question was what is the situation regarding the land of the project?
26- On 16 Jan. 2003 we submitted an updated summary of our achievements to get help from his Majesty the King regarding the land. We called the Economic Department at the Royal Court for follow-up and informed us that the former Chief of Staff, (Dr. Fayez Tarawneh) had sent our report to HE the Prime Minister. We called the PM's office and met with HE the Minister of Economy at that time Mr. Mohammad Samer Tawil, who conveyed the desire of the PM to move the project to Ma'an area, where they will give us the land for free and provide all the facilities and exemptions there?! Our reply was that the studies were based on several factors for the success of the project, including the site function, which was based on thorough studies, and the designs of buildings and areas were based on that too, and been communicated to many Arab and European investors. And told His Excellency that despite approval of many experts on our choice regarding the location, are ready to accept a technical neutral third-opinion.
27- A week later we received a call from Eng. Akram Abu Hamdan (Director General of National Resources Investment and Development***) and noted the recommendation of the Minister of Economy to work together to accomplish this project. During the meeting, we presented the idea of the project, and he pointed out the nature of their organization and the available capacities to carry out studies. After the meeting, we invited them in writing to contribute in the project. We received a written response dated 28 Apr. 2003 that they had no desire to engage in the project and that they were not convinced of seriousness of the offer made by the European Investment Bank! And that the site chosen was far from the ports!!??
28- On 27 July 2003 we met with (GTZ) of Germany to support some aspects of the study, who expressed their interest in studying the use of water and wastewater, and they recommended Frederick Naumann Foundation (Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Foundation), to cooperate with us in other aspects of the study.
29- Much more work was done, especially at the European level, where we contacted many of the commercial European attachés, including, but not limited to, German, French, Spanish commercial attachés, and the European Commission offices in Brussels, and their interest was obvious. The European Commission in Brussels invited us to attend many events, seminars and conferences held in Brussels to discuss the role of trade in achieving sustainable development and the Durban Conference in 2001, and many others. We could not utilize any of such events, it was not possible to talk about this project, there is no answer for why we're late to start.
30- We prepared a feasibility study with financial analysis and presented them to the German investment company (Global Funds) and after preparing all necessary documents and approval of our request to provide capital venture for 120 million dollars, they requested to provide a proof of our official position regarding the land.
31- We continued communicating with the Chief of Joint Staff and the Prime Minister during the years 2005 and 2006, with the continuation of our work and our consultations with the European Commission on this vital project.
32- On 7 Sep. 2006, since we did not receive any response from the Armed Forces (landlords), we sent a letter to His Majesty requesting to approve selling us the land (if it is a solution), and to allow us to use the King Hussein Air College and its infrastructure for commercial purposes for project requirements.
33- On 19 Sep. 2006 I was called by the private office of His Majesty the King at the Royal Court in the Little Palace, where I met a young man (Majid Qatarneh) and a girl from the Department of Projects there. In summary, we agreed to issue a letter to enable me to start official procedures and a period of six months to prove what we claim of the possibility of providing funds for the project.
34- In Nov. 2006, less than two months, His Majesty declared King Hussein Bin Talal Development Area, and delivered the file to the Social Security Organization. It was a great joy for me, since I thought it would provide the legal cover for our project.
35- Since the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, we committed ourselves to the decision of His Majesty to enable the Social Security Organization to develop the area of King Hussein Bin Talal Development Area. Despite our opinion of the inability of the Social Security Organization to realize the business trends and requirements of such a project, because of their structure and their decision-making mechanism, we contacted them in an attempt to cooperate with them.
36- We met the Director of the Investment Unit at the Social Security Organization Mr. Muflih Aqel, who apologized to provide any information because, as he said, he has just received the file and had no idea about our situation, and asked for time to find out what is going on.
37- After almost two months, we had another meeting with Mr. Aqel, and we were upset because of procrastination and stallment, Mr. Aqel said "Mr. Jarrar, I have instructions to give you a land, not 16 thousand dunums, but 8 thousand." I said my consultants are saying this is only procrastination and stallment, he said: "ignore people's talk and listen to officials'" and requested us to prepare a memorandum of understanding to start the procedures. He noted that a manager will be appointed for Mafraq Development Company, and that he will continue working with us.
38- We prepared a memorandum of understanding, but one of the assisting engineers said that the memorandum of understanding will not be of benefit to us since we are developers and we need to sign a contract as developers of the area.
39- We had a meeting with the Manager of Mafraq Development Company, who asked many questions about our vision for the project and what we have done so far, and said they cannot sign the contract until a tender is made for all local and international developers to avoid accountability by the House of Harliament and regulatory monitoring agencies.
40 – In another meeting the General Manager of Mafraq Development Company offered me a position as a consultant for them. My reply was that expenses incurred so far were more than five million Jordanian Dinars? A week later, I was invited to meet with BearingPoint Co., consultants for Greater Amman Municipality, who told us that they want to help us to complete the agreement with the Mafraq Development Company.
41- Mafraq Development Company launched the tender and the models for that purpose were not suitable for any developer because of the conditions set.
42- Mafraq Development Company sent us a fax saying that: "Given the complexities of the development of the region, King Hussein Bin Talal Development Area, "considering the complexities of developing the KHBTDA, your company would not be well positioned to address the comprehensive challenges inherent in this initiative in order to realize the full potential we envision for this unique project at this time."
43- I tried to contact many of the parties that I got in touch with earlier, the doors were closed, and fax were disabled. After consultation with local lawyers, they told me that the result will be negative because it is state sovereign decision.
44- I spent 22 years working on this project, spent more than JOD6.5 millions, my efforts with a team sacrifices, and the future of my children. The results of our work are being used by others (Mafraq Development Co.), with the directions of His Majesty King Abdullah II, who are destroying the (KHBTDA) through planting High Voltage lines in the middle of the area, and putting the mostly polluting industries at the highest point of the area.
45- In short, Jordan is suffering from a high rate of unemployment and poverty. This project does not encompass any risk for the government. The whole project is funded by EIB. My request was to rent a piece of land, not to own it, as people here usually request. Landlords (the Jordanian Army) requested us to start designing and conduct studies in 2000. WHY NOT?
46- WE NEED ANSWERS FROM HIS MAJESTY THE KING. WE DESERVE TO GET A FAIR CHANCE.