Rift Valley project shows few signs of concrete development.

Author:Albrecht, Kirk
Position:Jordan Rift Valley project fails to attract investors - Business & Finance
 
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A symposium to discuss development of the Rift Valley project held in Amman in April was deemed less than satisfactory by most of those who attended. However, as Kirk Albrecht reports from the Jordanian capital, plans are afoot to lay a more comprehensive and attractive package before the upcoming Amman economic summit.

If Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan have their way, the Jordan Rift Valley (JRV) will become a showcase for the fruits of peacemaking over the next few years. Complete with power stations and touristic sites, the project could provide stimulus for hundreds of jobs on both sides of the Jordan River. However, more than six months after the two statesmen unveiled their bold ideas at the Middle East and North Africa economic summit in Casablanca last year, the dreams have yet to secure the funding to make them in to reality.

Israel and Jordan, are trying to enlist international help in developing what they say is the key to lasting peace in the area. Leaders from both countries are lobbying western governments for technical expertise and monetary aid to make the arid stretch of land from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea bloom.

However, at a symposium on the JRV sponsored by the United States Trade and Development Agency (TDA) in Amman in April, almost all participants came away disappointed.

Jordan and Israel arrived looking for pledges of funds from American investment institutions or private sector firms eager to begin infrastructural projects but came away empty handed.

Meanwhile, potential sources of finance - represented by the World Bank, Merrill Lynch, and Salomon Brothers - left Amman unimpressed by the amount of serious preparations instituted by the neighbouring states, which share a common border running along the JRV, to gain financing for the project. And there remains wide variance of opinion about what projects to fund, and in what priority.

The idea of a joint authority to oversee development of the area, has been floated by Peres and Prince Hassan but to date little has been done to create such an institution even though at the Amman JRV symposium, Prince Hassan defined "institution-building as job number one".

Both Jordan and Israel have hurdles to overcome in entering into proposed partnerships for JRV development. Leon Bijou, an attorney with the Washington firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, which specialises in project financing, says each side has a key issue to address...

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