New Jordanian Economic Zone Becomes Operational in Aqaba
Jordan's new economic zone centered on the southern port city and resort of Aqaba became operational Monday when the law setting it up came into effect, an official said.
Imad Fakhuri, a member of the zone's management authority, said companies interested in investing in the area had begun registering, including 500 already active in Aqaba.
Quoted in the daily Al Rai, Fakhuri said plans had been drawn up to market the zone worldwide in a bid to attract billions of dollars in investment through Jordan's only port.
He expected that 50 percent of investments would come from the tourist sector, 30 percent from service industries and 20 percent from manufacturing, adding that a number of foreign firms he did not identify had shown interest.
Jordan is pinning high hopes on the low-tax economic zone, with a target of six billion dollars from tourism, information technology firms, industry, commerce and services, creating 70,000 jobs and helping to double per capita income by 2020.
In July, the Jordanian cabinet approved the plan and passed a law that stipulates strict curbs on the sale of land in the southern port, Jordan's only outlet to the sea and near the borders with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The sale of land in Aqaba will now depend on the "principle of reciprocity" with the country of origin of potential investors -- thus effectively ruling out Israel, which bans land sales to foreigners.
Critics have said the project would turn Aqaba into a self-rule haven for money-laundering, smugglers and moral corruption, as well as undermine national sovereignty and open the door to Israeli land grabs -- AMMAN (AFP)
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