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Jordan, June 17, 2019
Construction contractors lock horns with energy, labour ministries

Association claims ministries 'main factor' in sector's downturn

AMMAN — The Jordanian Construction Contractors Association (JCCA) has voiced its “distress” with the ministries of energy and labour, claiming that they were a “main factor” in the sector’s 40 per cent trade volume drop last year.

The association’s president, Ahmed Yacoub, told The Jordan Times that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has “handed over construction grants for projects in Mafraq, Azraq, Maan and Tafileh to foreign companies, despite knowing that the sector is struggling”.

He noted that the construction projects launched in 2017 amounted to JD1.8 billion, whereas they amounted to JD700 million in 2018.

“A significant drop in a sector which employs over 100,000 Jordanians and is interlinked with other crucial sectors should receive more serious attention. We are halfway into 2019 and our demands for better regulations are still unattended,” said the sector’s leader.

Ministry Spokesperson Mashhour Abu Eid said that the ministry is “unaware of such projects, and all grants are proposed locally first”.

Targeted in Yacoub’s remarks as well was the Ministry of Labour, which, according to Yacoub, “is a main partner that is also not cooperative with the sector or its needs”.

He added: “The licensing of foreign labour, most of whom are Egyptians and, most recently, Syrians, depends on the mood of the ministry’s employees. Sometimes they will agree to your request of bringing in a foreign worker, sometimes not. We have asked for clear guidelines over and over again so that our projects can progress smoothly with the appropriate amount of workers, but all to no avail.”

Ministry of Labour Spokesperson Mohammed Khatib said in reply that the ministry “has certain percentages of foreign workers allocated to each sector, so when the number is below the set limit, the requests are allowed, and are otherwise not. The ministry also has a 20-page-long document stating the general guidelines, which anyone can look up online.”

Although the sector seemed at the beginning of the year to receive what JCCA board member Abdel Haleem Bustanji called a “God-sent miracle” when Jordanian construction contractors were given equal footing as their Iraqi peers in Iraq’s $88.2-billion reconstruction plans, Yacoub stated that “the lack of adequate insurance offered by the Ministry of Labour stood in the way of many who planned to take advantage of that opportunity”.