Jordanian citizens and Egyptian expatriates have voiced disappointment at Cairo’s decision to halt gas supplies to the Kingdom, which suffers from severe energy difficulties.
Continued disruptions in gas supplies from Egypt is projected to cost the Treasury around JD1.3 billion this year, raising the deficit in the budget to unprecedented levels.
In remarks to The Jordan Times Monday, some Jordanians feared that the timing of such a move by Cairo is meant to deepen the harsh economic conditions in Jordan, saying that the Egyptian leadership should instead extend a hand of support to the country that hosts over a million Egyptian nationals.
Average Jordanians interviewed by The Jordan Times seemed suspicious of ill-intentions behind the decision to cut natural gas supplies to Jordan, with some media reports claiming Cairo is still supplying gas to Israel, which Cairo denied as baseless on Monday.
“I believe that Egypt is intentionally falling short of fulfilling its commitment towards Jordan,” said Akram Maaytah, who hoped that Cairo was not seeking to exercise political pressure on the Kingdom for the sake of a certain political group.
Maaytah, a public sector employee from Karak, said the Islamist-led Egypt should honour its agreement with Jordan and lift the pressure it has placed on the government “to empower Islamists in the Kingdom”.
Another citizen, Amer Al Shaar, accused decision makers in Cairo of playing a political game with Jordan to serve their agendas in Jordan and the region. “It is clear that there is regional pressure on Jordan because of Syria,” Shaar said, indicating that Egyptian leaders also want the government in Amman to offer Islamists more political concessions, particularly in regards to the Elections Law.
Egypt should deal with Jordan in an institutional manner away from agendas that serve their allies in the country, he added, describing the move to terminate gas supplies as unjustified and unfair.
“We hoped the new Egypt would look at Jordan as a sisterly country who needs support, particularly in the issue of energy,” said Mohammad Sharairi, a resident of the city of Irbid.
Sharairi expressed concerns that if Egypt does not change its stance towards Jordan, this may fuel hatred among Jordanian citizens against Egyptians working in the Kingdom. “We host over a million Egyptian workers whom we treat as brothers,” he added.
Analyst Akef Zoubi said that it is important to investigate whether Egypt is still supplying Israel with natural gas, while cutting it to Jordan.
Indicating that Egyptian authorities say that the halt was due to a shortage in gas to cover increasing domestic needs to generate electricity in addition to carrying technical maintenance to gas station and pipelines.
However, Zoubi, an economist and a former agriculture minister, did not rule out that the decision to halt the gas flow was a means of political pressure on Jordan as part of a wider regional and international agenda to force the country to take a hostile stance against the Syrian regime.
“Jordan has always vowed it would not interfere in the internal issues of Syria. Not receiving the promised Arab financial aid and the gas issue with Egypt might be intended to push Jordan to change its stance,” according to the former politician.
Should Egypt withhold its stand on the gas deal, the latest version of which was signed after the revolution that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak, Jordan should seek international arbitration to solve the dispute, he said.
Egyptians in Jordan
Also reproachful of Cairo’s move to cut gas supplies to the Kingdom, Egyptians working in Jordan urged the leadership in the their country to reconsider the decision as soon as possible. Preferred to be identified by their first names, the Egyptian expatriates said that Jordan has always been their second home.
Wael, who works at a supermarket in Amman, noted that Jordan should always be given priority in regards to gas supplies from Egypt, saying he would be shocked if Israel still receives gas while Jordan is suffering from the repercussions of the halt in supplies. “Thanks to my work in Jordan, I have been able to buy a house and a land in my home country,” he stated.
Another Egyptian interviewed by The Jordan Times was Saad, who criticised his country’s policies by not also looking at the interests of Egyptians abroad. “We live and work here. What we wish for our country is the same we wish for Jordan,” he remarked.