White Elephant projects
A few years back, H.E. Samir al-Rifai mentioned that Jordan needed some sort of a “Marshall Plan” to boost the economy and lower the unemployment rate and implement the Mega-projects that were on the list at that time.
The most important projects at that time were: Nuclear Power Plant, Red-Dead Desalination, Cargo Railway project (and they still need to be implemented a.s.a.p). It is a shame that the Ministry of Mega-projects was scrapped. It had a cool name.
Now more than ever, post-pandemic, Jordan needs a “Marshall Plan”.
From a Keynesian point of view, private and/or public investment in large projects are extremely beneficial to the economy in two-fold: the funds trickle down to all strata of society, from the contractor to the supplier; and the infrastructure project itself benefits the economy as a whole, especially a dry country that imports 95% of its energy.
I would like to look here at the other side of the spectrum: projects that are very costly and are not beneficial to the economy (except to the contractor). These are called “White elephant” projects. So let us imagine that during this decade, all the important vital projects are implemented and the country decides to embark on new ventures that could be of little benefit.
Here are my personal suggestions with a rating out of 5.
On the Dead Sea Highway, past the Potash plant, is a long stretch of 200 kms of empty sleepy desert road, the Ministry of Tourism would build a large statue of a Camel. It could be bigger than the Eiffel Tower. It will be made from scrap metal and recycled plastic. It could become a 4th stop to tourists in the Golden Triangle area.
Cost: 350 million
Rating: 🐘🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 (or 4 out of 5 white elephants if they make it out of solar panels or put a windmill on its head).
Driving or flying from Amman to Aqaba is a bore as well as a chore. The Ministry of Transport could build a Zeppelin that flies daily to the port city. It would take the same amount of time as any other mode of transport. The difference would be spectacular views, comfortable seating from the glass lounge where you could see all of Jordan, especially the giant Camel statue.
Cost: 80 million
Rating: 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘
If anyone has been on the Dead Sea highway, they would have noticed the annoying Potash trucks. They are a cause of air and noise pollution to the residents, they damage the road itself and they are a danger to drivers. The Potash company should invest in a single lane track cargo train headed towards the port of Aqaba. It could save them money, especially on diesel fuel and truck maintenance (road maintenance, disease from air pollution or death from accidents not calculated) as well as be less of a nuisance to everyone. The cargo train could also carry passengers who would enjoy the scenery of a large camel on the ground and a zeppelin in the sky.
Cost: 600 million
Rating: 🐘 🐘
Saudi Arabia has recently put a ban on Jordanian trucks older than 5 years. They have every right to do so: These trucks emit black smoke and aren’t as efficient. The Ministry of Transport is trying to find a solution with its Saudi counterpart to allow these trucks to enter, but the path forward is obvious: we need to invest in a dry port with a new fleet of hybrid trucks. The trucks affected number 3500. Instead of whining and bickering and begging, we need to be more proactive. We have the Saudi Jordanian Investment Fund. Why don’t we be proactive and just buy a whole new fleet of modern trucks!
Cost: 350 million
I hope that the important projects get implemented first. The past decade has not been kind to new projects (take the BRT for example). Let us hope the Ajloun Téléférique or Cable Car turns out to be a success and that all other vital projects get implemented on time and below budget.
If you have any ideas for a white elephant project, please do share them in the comments.