Today, Sunday, ABJ held a dialogue session to discuss the plans and programs of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority and the Aqaba Development Company in addition to the role of banks in financing projects.

It was agreed to form a committee of decision makers in banks to review the investment status-quo and future aspirations in Aqaba.

Al-Salem, ABJ Chairman, confirmed that the royal vision is clear towards supporting Aqaba to be a global center for tourism, investment and trade.

He said that Aqaba has made great economic achievements in recent years pointing out to the great deal of work that requires joint efforts to implement major, qualitative and strategic projects exceeding local or regional standards.

He said that Aqaba witnessed the implementation of a number of projects, along with a number of expected ones, hoping that this meeting will result in a financing partnership between the banking sector and the projects established in Aqaba.

In turn, the head of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, Nayef Al-Fayez, announced a comprehensive review of achievements, the extent of achievement efficiency and follow-up on project evaluation stressing that there is a comprehensive review of administrative performance in Aqaba and the complete transition to automation of services.

He pointed out that the Corona pandemic greatly affected the progress in implementing projects stressing the importance of attracting national competencies to Aqaba and focusing on creativity.

Al-Fayez said that the implementation of the Google data center in Aqaba constitutes a strong message and helps Aqaba to be the linking area between Europe and Asia.

He stressed that the quest now would focus on making Aqaba an area of attraction for investment rather than transit area for logistical services.

Al-Fayez said that the royal vision of economic modernization is a road map for the development of Aqaba at all levels noting that the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority supports the investor in implementing projects and aspirations.

He stated that facilitating procedures is a top priority pointing out that investment, political and economic development are all corelated basic axes and that the banking sector plays on essential role in financing projects.

Al-Fayez pointed out that Aqaba is not only linked with investments, tourism and services but it serves as a mixture of economies, stressing that it is not confined to the logistics sector as there is a transition to industry.

He also stressed the importance of Aqaba within its developmental role pointing out that it has a pivotal role on several levels.

Concerning the tourist port, Al-Fayez indicated that the preliminary indicators are positive since work on this port began early this year.

As for the Saudi project “NEOM”, Al-Fayez confirmed that efforts are being made to strengthen the partnership with the city of “NEOM” explaining that “NEOM” will be very attractive to major international projects.

He said that safety is the basis for operating the port system in Aqaba noting to a specialized re-study of the procedures and control mechanisms in the ports and the industrial zone. The study will be completed through a specialized company during next April.

On the level of cooperation with the banking sector, he stressed the need for a mechanism to revive stalled projects and support existing ones to achieve comprehensive development.

For his part, the CEO of the Aqaba Development Company, Hussein Al-Safadi, stressed the importance of public-private sector partnership indicating that two units have been established to follow up on any observations or suggestions received from investors clarifying that the response to the investor is within a maximum of 24 hours to observations or work out any concerns or give a certain period of time.

In response to an inquiry about the mechanism of the Abu Dhabi Ports Group’s work in Aqaba, Al-Safadi confirmed that Aqaba land assets and everything on it will remain the property of Jordan, however, work mechanisms with the group were based on investment and economic bases with the system of operation and management only, not ownership.

He pointed out that efforts are being made in Aqaba to implement the royal vision by transforming Aqaba into a global business and entertainment destination, enhancing the quality of life and prosperity of the regional community through sustainable development.

He pointed out that the focus in Aqaba is based on 6 areas, which are tourism (including adventure tourism, medical tourism, and residential lifestyle), manufacturing including the clothing industry, food processing, medicine, and metal manufacturing), logistics and transportation including ports, warehousing and land transportation, green growth (including green industries and renewable energy), skills and education (including specialized vocational training) and the creative industries (including film production and digital technologies.

Al-Safadi referred to a set of customs duties measures granted for investment, such as vehicles exemptions, 50% on handling fees of containers exported from the Aqaba Special Economic Zone and 40% discount on handling fees of goods in transit in addition to the elimination of restrictions on foreign property rights. There are no restrictions on foreign currency, full repatriation of profits and capital in addition to zero income tax rate on transit stored goods and re-exports.

He noted that Aqaba witnessed achievements in several sectors, such as the Lifestyle Promenade project, Al-Yamani Beach, the Great Arab Revolt Square, the Aqaba Bicycle Corridor and SOFEX 2022 in addition to the Quweira Industrial Zone, the cruise terminal in Aqaba ACT – carbon removal, grain silos, the development of the general freight port, the natural liquified gas network. Green Hydrogen (FFI) JICA – Aqaba Sustainable Master Plan, Aqaba Medical University, Aqaba Teaching Hospital, Tourism Studies Institute YEP Med and Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Vocational Training Program.

He announced investment opportunities that are being implemented including the Aircraft Heritage Museum, the first of its kind in Jordan, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to view the Kingdom’s portfolio of heritage military and non-military aviation assets in addition to the Aqaba International Exhibition Center which will be home to many B2B events in addition to hosting SOFEX Exhibition twice a year.

He added that the projects also include Tartan – the international racetrack, which will add Jordan to the international racetrack map and contribute to enriching the schedule of events and tourist attractions in Aqaba, the Aqaba Corridor for Agricultural Food and Innovation, aquaculture farms, sustainable modular urban housing in Aqaba and Aqaba Box Park where the Aqaba Development Company is working with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone to develop a plan for a new tourist destination and entertainment center in the city in addition to Aqaba Studios for Photography and the Institute of Cinematic Arts in cooperation with the Royal Film Commission.

During the dialogue session moderated by the economic writer Salama Al-Darawi, he confirmed that there is a discrepancy in performance and achievement in Aqaba, explaining that there are years witnessing great momentum while others witness a state of calm.

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