The Lower House of Jordan’s Parliament on Sunday endorsed a draft Privatization Law which includes a controversial article that allows the government to maintain a "golden share" in any privatized firm, according to the Jordan Times.
According to Article 14, the government can, but is not obliged to, maintain this share which entitles it to veto any decisions made by the executive board or the general assembly "if national concerns call for it."
The article was expected to cause a heated debate because the joint Economic and Finance, and Legal Affairs Committee suggested that it should be cancelled.
However, it was swiftly endorsed by the House because the committee withdrew its proposal.
But the committee's chairman, Deputy Ali Abul Ragheb, explained to his colleagues the reasons behind the proposal.
The English daily quoted the MP as saying that maintaining the golden share might repel potential investors who fear that the government might hinder some decisions and therefore cause losses.
Abul Ragheb added there was no need for such government control since other legislation impose strict monitoring on private firms to ensure that their decisions do not contradict the national interest.
Prime Minister Abdur-Ra'uf Rawabdeh told the assembly that the government will only maintain the golden share in sensitive sectors where decisions might affect the national interest.
He also said the government, for example, might relinquish its share in the hotel industry because of the private sector lead in this market and the inability of the public sector to compete.
Earlier in the meeting, Abul Ragheb criticized the government after repeatedly challenging the committee's proposals, and asked the premier to attend the committee's meetings more often to better explain the government's views on the drafts.
Other highlights in the draft include the establishment of a Privatization Council and an Executive Committee for Privatization.
The council will be responsible for charting privatization policies, identifying public institutions that should be privatized or restructured and ratifying and endorsing sale or lease contracts to the private sector.
The council, which will be chaired by the prime minister, will comprise the ministers of finance, trade and industry, planning, justice, the Central Bank governor, a member of the executive privatization committee, and four "experienced and professional" individuals who are appointed for a two-year term, renewable only once.
The House committee failed to pass an amendment stipulating that the four individuals must be from the private sector, according to the paper.
Arguing against this proposal, Rawabdeh said it is better not to have two-thirds of the council from the private sector on grounds that it should not be involved at the initial phases of charting the general policies for privatization.
The council can also include any other cabinet member if the privatized institution concerns his ministry.
The executive committee, on the other hand, will be an independent body, both administratively and financially, but would still be "connected," to the premier.
The committee will supervise the implementation of privatization and restructuring schemes and will also issue recommendations to the council in this respect, said the Jordan Times report – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)