Conflict over high prices of steel bars lingers on
The Contractors Association and the Steel Marketing Company have not ended "a conflict over the high prices of steel bars in Jordan," a senior association official said on Sunday.
The price of steel bars has jumped to JD285 per tone, while it was approximately JD245 in the late 1999; a step which has been identified by contractors as "a start to monopolize the iron and steel industry in Jordan - and eventually, the entire construction sector," said Yousef Karneh, the deputy head of the association.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry last month formed a special committee to investigate whether the private Steel Marketing Company, which includes Jordan's ten steel companies, is monopolizing Jordan's steel and iron industry, an issue the contractors claim is tied to the higher prices.
But, it seems that the committee members who ought to figure out a fair arrangement which protects the rights of steel producers and consumers alike representing the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the association and the marketing company are not working in harmony as each side is strictly clinging to its demands, according to Karneh.
"The association is asking the government to abolish the marketing company - ultimately to end monopoly, to reduce the 30 percent customs to 15 percent and to compensate contractors JD40 per tone of steel bars retroactively to late 1999," he said.
On the other hand, the steel companies believe that in the last few years they have been under siege and faced huge losses in turn. This matter forced them to merge in order to reduce their financial losses.
Jordan's ten iron and steel companies established the common marketing company in the last few months, and early discussions of mergers left industry sources upbeat about the open market era.
However and since the committee's sides are not in harmony, "the whole issue has been transferred to the Lower House Financial Committee for more deliberation," said Karneh.
However, "the anti-monopoly law which should be debated in the current extraordinary session and which experts rely on to end the steel monopoly has been postponed to the ordinary session in November," said Karneh, who believes that this last step will aggravate the problem more as contractors will go on paying high prices.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, however, may reach a friendly compromise very soon which may be accepted by all sides and where prices may be fixed, said a ministry senior official who declined to be named and did not elaborate more. ― (Jordan Times)
By Khalid Dalal
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)