At the lunch banquet hosted by the Mayor of London
11 May 1999
My government asked me to convince all of you, in five minutes or less, that Jordan is the ideal place for your investments. I will try and do as best as I can. Actually, we have taken some very dramatic decisions since the tragic loss of His Majesty King Hussein, may God rest his soul, and I will go through them.
Regarding privatisation, the government was formed two months ago and we had to wait a whole month until they had Parliament's vote of confidence. Therefore, this new government has only had four weeks to really move forward. We managed to go down to the south and privatise the railway system. We have gone down to Aqaba to sign the BP accord with us. We've asked for one month extension because we have found natural gas in our own territory, and, therefore, a month from now we will know exactly what the quantity is because it is obviously very difficult for me to convince my people to buy gas from Egypt when we have our own. We hope within, I think, the next three weeks, we will know the extent of that gas field and we will be able to sign by the end of the year the gas project.
We will be privatising the telecommunications, I hope, by the end of this month; Royal Jordanian airlines, I hope, we will look at it by the end of the year. I am also looking at the television stations, although I get funny looks from members of my government whenever I say that. But we are moving in the right direction, and there are many other projects that we are trying to address as quickly as possible.
Well, what we've asked from the government, and the government is working very closely with me on this, is a two-fold approach. One is a two-year program to revitalise the government, to streamline, to re-educate, to achieve a one-stop-shop attitude in the different ministries and this is something that the prime minister is taking to heart. We hope that the process will be put in place as quickly as possible.
At the same time, I am hoping that we can revitalise the investment board, something that the Egyptians have done and that has been a great success there. I hope to be the honorary chairman of that board and to have sitting with me the prime minister, members of the government, customs agencies. I hope it will also have the three chambers of commerce. This way, when investors come to Jordan they come right to the decision-makers.
Our job then is to do what we can within our capabilities to make these offers for foreign investors as smooth as possible. Obviously, the government program takes two years and we are looking at laws and attitudes to try to make a healthy atmosphere, but we do not want to wait two years to be able to bring in investors.
As people come with projects, we will tackle issues as they come. So, if you come in with a project, we will see what the problems are that are ahead of you. We have the members of the government and the private sector sitting on a board with us. We will take decisions in front of you. We will give you a limited amount of time and give the government a limited amount of time to get all clearances; and, ideally, all you need to do is sit in a hotel room and a government official will come and ask you to sign on a piece of paper. That sounds probably very ambitious, but the investment board is actually set up. Unfortunately, I think it had a meeting once about a year and a half ago; but I think when we get back from our round of visits, this particular board will meet once a week and I'll be sitting there to try and move it forward.
We've taken a slightly different attitude from the past. I believe that the future of Jordan is teamwork - when we want to revitalise the economy and tackle the obstacles that are ahead of us, we do it together. The government and the private sector and myself have been sitting together to try and make decisions on how to take the country forward. It is not enough for one side to decide that this is the future of Jordan. It has to be a team effort; and we've had some wonderful participation and interest and very good ideas from the private sector. So, I hope that we will create this very healthy atmosphere, where we work as a team and we look forward to all our colleagues, especially the UK, to come and visit us. I will do my utmost to support you and support the government in pushing whatever projects we have forward.
I believe that this approach is probably the quickest way of getting Jordan back up on its feet. The prime minister is affectionately known in Jordan as "the bulldozer" and that means he likes to get out of the office and get things done. Recently, when we had to solve the very tricky issue of privatising the railroad in the south of Jordan, we actually took the government down there, and sat with the people and solved the problem on the spot.
There is nothing that we can't do as long as we get out of the office and get to the source of the problem, sit down with the people, and get an atmosphere that the people and the government are actually one team; and that is what I am very, very committed to. As I look around the table I see many familiar faces, and those whom I have not met with before, until the day I hope that I will see you all in Jordan in the future, I tell you that you have our commitment as the government of Jordan to move ahead as strongly as possible to privatise, to reform the economy and make the atmosphere in Jordan as healthy as possible. As the prime minister and I have discussed on many occasions, I do not see that there are any problems with that effort. Well, it takes more courage on behalf of the government and ourselves to take some difficult positions, and we've already proven that we can do that and we will continue to that.
So thank you very much for a very warm welcome; and from my family and our delegation I hope that we will see all of you in Jordan in the near future. Whatever problems you have I am sure that we can solve them for you, and that we look forward to a very, very bright future with all of you in Jordan as soon as we can. Thank you very much.