Normally the posts we write have more to do with matters related to business trips, but in this case we include here an "article" with the partial and subjective vision of our colleague Iván Ollo about Jordan. Always attentive to both people and business opportunities...
Driving in Jordan is bad, but very bad, but everyone knows how to do it. Just like in PT and southern Italy. It's just practical.
I will start by saying that it is a wonderful country and I will give a brief summary.
It is, for the moment, a very safe country. Official US and unofficial Israeli aid is appreciated. There are cameras everywhere, police, secret service, you see military and police checks on all the roads every few minutes in a discreet way.
Official languages: Arabic and English. Everyone speaks English. Wonderful.
Majority religion: Sunni. 5% of its inhabitants are Christians, who have prestige and social standing. Anecdotally, it is allowed to consume and sell alcohol. This is mostly done in Christian neighbourhoods (but also Muslim) and when people want to go shopping they usually say "go up and get some ....". Because Christians used to live in the upper parts of the cities.
Women are respected. You see veils and so on, but also many women with their hair down. They are respected a lot and there are usually no attacks on their integrity under maximum penalty and the famous "revenge" of the family. Whoever tries it, they kill him or her. That's all. The murderer will go to jail but he will be released as a hero (with financial support) in a short time.
The Christians and the Royal Guard who come from the Caucasus (the current King's grandfather brought them over and they are very loyal to them) have a quota in parliament.
Jordan is virtually desert except for some in the northern part and along the entire Jordan River basin and mountain range. Hashemite Kingdom.
It is a small country. It can be travelled from north (Syria-Damascus) to south (port of Aqaba) along the backbone road, following the old caravan route, in about 6 hours.
After the expulsion of the Ottomans with the help of the British, the grandfather of the present King created his principality after the Arab Rev. It then became Transjordan. His brothers were given Iraq and Syria. He was lucky, nobody "kicked him out" and it became the Kingdom of Jordan (as we know it today). In Iraq and Syria there were the two main strands of Islam: Sunni and Shia. More instability. The pan-Arab Ba'ath party (Arab nationalist and socialist) was created in both countries and we know that it staged a coup d'état in both countries, ousting the brothers of the Jordanian monarch at the time from power and creating the two known dictatorships. The al-Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
As a political historical fact: there has been much talk of returning to the former Transjordan. As the inhabitants of Jordan are mostly Palestinians, they would join together in a confederation or federation or simply create a single country: Transjordan with the independent Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank). This is logical. For now the issue is at a standstill. It could have been activated when the brother of the current King, who had a Palestinian mother, was considered, but due to "internal and external" influences he was not allowed to reign (he later died). If he had reigned, the fact that he was the son of a Palestinian mother would have been a determining factor in the move to "Transjordan". Not interested ......
There are more than 6,000,000 inhabitants. Of Berber origin (some would say Palestinian Berbers as it was formerly considered part of Palestine) in ancient times and after the liberation with the Arab Revolution to free itself from the Ottomans, it has received in two very strong waves, at the end of the 40s and the end of the 60s, a Palestinian population (who left Palestine because of the wars with Israel). That is why the majority of the population is of Palestinian origin. Some say it with pride, others don't even say it. They are Jordanians. Palestinians received and receive citizenship automatically. To this (local, i.e. national) population has been added some 4,000,000 refugees from various countries in the Arab world. From neighbouring countries due to regional wars. That is why Jordan receives aid and subsidies (direct money) to support them. They are even given aid for water, as it is a country lacking water.
The paradox is that the most basic and unskilled jobs are being taken by refugees and the usually well-educated and English-speaking Jordanians in "professional" occupations (doctors, architects, engineers, managers, teachers, etc. ....) have to emigrate. Many to Saudi Arabia.
Muslim women do not usually work, and those who do, along with Christian women, work in educated professions: schools, hospitals, commerce .....
In hotels, for example, the cleaning of rooms is done by men. Also in the kitchen. You see women but most of them tend to be foreigners who come with a 3-year contract with a high work capacity and who come from English-speaking countries: Thailand, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, ......
It is a country that imports everything. It does not have a large manufacturing industrial fabric. There is some, but they are large groups with investments in all sectors that share everything. Then obviously there is the small family business.
The only sector that has not stopped growing since the creation of the Kingdom of Jordan and continues to grow is construction. Because of the housing needs for so many people coming here. Not so much in infrastructure.
The other major sector in which they pamper and give maximum importance is tourism. It is a country visited for archaeological reasons (Nabataean Petra, Roman times, Crusader period) and for religious reasons (it is considered a holy land and there are continuous pilgrimages of Christians from all over the world).
The historical part is important, then there is the health part with bathing in the Dead Sea and also the sun, beach and diving part, as the Aqaba coast has wonderful coral reefs. Nowadays you see less Westerners. A lot of Arabs and Russians. Spain in the years before the crisis accounted for the majority of visitors. In fact there are a lot of Spanish speaking guides. Now they pull Mexicans and other LATAM. Because of the crisis, and now because of the fear of the area, the number of visitors has dropped to a minimum.
So much so, that in Aqaba the new area of the hotels belonged to Saudi Arabia but they reached an agreement to change territory. They traded a strip of coastline to Jordan in exchange for land in the desert behind for SA. Jordan doesn't care. In fact it knows, it believes, that they can have oil but they don't want to drill. They don't want to have it. Why? Because they say that the moment they find it and enter OPEC, it will be all trouble and the country will become unstable and at risk of conflict. They want to pull in tourism.
Life is not cheap. A beer costs between 5 D and 9 D. In some places even more. 1D = 0,80€ + -
A local lamb 15€/kg. An imported lamb 8 €/kg.
90 petrol at 0,70 €/l.
95 petrol at 0,95€/l.
An average salary of around €500 (police, shop assistants, waiters, waitresses and other jobs without training). 700€ if you are a clerk, nurse, etc...
The problem is that while here, being a millionaire or with less income is divided between one, two and 1 or 2 children, in Jordan you have 4 to 5 children. And women generally don't work. It is hard.
VAT is 17%.
Oil is imported. Gas is imported from Egypt.
- Cement: Important cement industry to take over all construction: France present with Lafarge. There are national companies. Exports to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
- Automotive: no plants but all brands are imported and sold. Most visible are Japanese and Korean brands.
- Steel: No steel manufacturing industry is visible but coil transport is seen. There is some processing. I am told that there may be a steel mill for billet construction.……
- Telephony: very present FR with Orange.
- Petrol stations: national (one of them owned by a Jordanian married to a Russian woman who returned to Jordan and has not stopped investing. Cement, construction, petrol stations, distribution ..... Russian tourism). Total.
- Water: country without water. Bottling plants. Very conscious. There is a day called "clean-up day". It is usually on Thursdays. Amman in the last 50 years has grown ugly and untidy. It absorbs 70% of the population. Originally there were 4-7 hills. Today there are more than 20 and they say it will grow to 40. Narrow streets where you can only carry goods, furniture, etc. .... with donkeys. The old buildings have water tanks on the roofs and the families have to rationalise their water consumption. Therefore, one day a week a big general cleaning is done and the tanks are refilled. On the other hand, the government subsidises the expenses due to the amount of foreign population. In turn, the UN pays the Jordanian government for the water. 1L = 3 D. Of which 2 D. are subsidised.
New houses, housing estates, new office buildings, hotels, shopping centres already have large underground reservoirs for daily water consumption.
They need investment in water technology. Israel is number one and Spanish companies have copied and developed it (many of them in Murcia). There are business opportunities in everything to do with water technology, agriculture, desalination, water treatment, pipelines, etc. .....
- Solar: You see a lot of solar panels. It makes sense if the sun does not disappear. Industry to develop.
- Wind: A Spanish company apparently manages a wind farm with 26 windmills. They say they want to develop more. They are studying the profitability. There is a lot of wind in the desert but the dust damages the mechanisms. ....... The aim is that in 10 years 15% of the electricity will be produced by wind energy. Business to develop.
- Consumption: You see all kinds of brands. Right now, in mobile telephony, Samsung is the leader. Omnipresent. Carrefour in distribution and therefore in hotels you see French products such as "Bonne Maman" jams. Nobilia Kitchens. AEG. Mediclinics (Spanish hand dryer company. Everywhere). Small standard Italian water pumping motors. Siemens. Vestel in boilers. Possibilities for any type of consumer or industrial company.
- Transport: The second-hand truck market is impressive. Being a country of origin in the passage of caravans. They are commercial. It is noted that they are arteries to other Arab countries as I said before. The port of entry for all imported goods is Aqaba. Managed by an NL subsidiary of Maersk (DK). Then a huge number of trucks deliver all over the country and neighbouring countries. The curious thing is that second-hand trucks are bought from all over the EU: IT, ESP, NL, GR, RO and above all DE. They don't take the names of the previous companies off the cabs, rear doors, awnings. Fun! Viva la Segoviana! Market for the tool industry and the second equipment and spare parts industry.
A relatively young, developing country with potential, but also with the scepticism that many companies are already established in it.