(AFP, AMMAN) - The Jordanian parliament on Sunday scrapped the public status of the national carrier Royal Jordanian paving the way for its privatisation despite opposition from several deputies.
"Before the vote 17 deputies walked out of parliament to protest against the refusal of chamber president Abdel Hadi Majali to allow a review of a report" criticising the airline's performance, MP Khalil Haddadin told AFP.
Nevertheless the law stripping Royal Jordanian of its public status was adopted by majority vote by the 40 other deputies who were present, said Haddaddin, an independent opposition MP.
The government is looking into selling a 49 percent stake in the airline to a strategic partner or to foreign investors and the rest to the Jordanian private sector.
A report leaked to the press last month indicated that Royal Jordanian was doing too poorly to be handed over from state ownership to the private sector.
However, the airline's director general and chairman, Nader Zahabi, told AFP in an interview in May that the company's performance had improved, and it was actively looking for investors ahead of its full privatisation.
The government had taken several steps in recent months to pave the way for privatisation, including financial restructuring, which have reduced the company's debts to 150 million dollars from an estimated one billion dollars in the 1990s, he said.
Zahabi also indicated that the company saw net profits of 36 million dollars in 1999 after years of losses.
Royal Jordanian has taken several other steps to pay off the airline's debt in Jordan which stands at 110 million dollars, including hiving off five departments -- including the training centre -- as separate companies to be sold off before the end of the year.
The company has also cancelled non-profitable routes, including those to Canada and Iran, and reduced its staff to cut costs.
Royal Jordanian's fleet is made up exclusively of Airbus planes: nine A310s and three A320s, servicing a total of 45 destinations, including the United States, western Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Gulf
© Agence France-Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )