The Senate on Monday endorsed a draft law on the creation of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (SEZ) after introducing slight amendments to it, and returned it to the Lower House for debate and approval.
The endorsement came at a Senate meeting attended by Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb and a number of cabinet ministers during which the senators debated a report on the SEZ as compiled by a joint finance and legal committee.
The Lower House endorsed the SEZ draft law on July 25 after a lengthy debate during which opponents of the project contended that the plan would turn Aqaba, Jordan's only outlet to the sea, into a self-rule haven for money launderers, smugglers and moral corruption.
The rapporteur of the Senate's finance committee Kamal Shaer presented the committee's views, saying that the committee found that Aqaba seaport enjoys a unique geographical location and modern infrastructure and would be a suitable location for maintaining full and efficient control over customs-related matters.
He said the draft gives investors incentives and will help the port city become an economic hub and a regional investment center.
The prime minister met the Senate committee late last month to explain the project in detail. The government's ambitions are that the city would attract investments in tourism and industrial sectors and create some 70,000 jobs.
Abul Ragheb said the project calls for launching in the year 2001 a low tax economic zone to attract $6 billion from tourism, information technology firms, industry, commerce and services.
The prime minister also asserted that Aqaba will not be separated from the rest of the Kingdom as has been alleged, but said that under the draft law, the SEZ will encompass the Aqaba Region Authority and the Aqaba Municipality. It will not undermine in any way Jordan's sovereignty over the port city, he said.
Once the Lower House approves the amended version of the draft law, the Senate must ratify it before a Royal Decree as law finally endorses it. – (Jordan Times )
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