by Yusuf Mansur | Oct 27, 2014

The energy debate is ever continuing in Jordan. It is unending and seemingly fruitless.

One strategy after another is formulated, yet implementation does not happen, and energy champions (ministers) come and go through fast revolving doors.

Meanwhile, neither demand nor supply have improved in a country starved for energy, and Jordan, its people and future, mercilessly suffer.

There is a foot-dragging, lackluster performance, and even inaction, by some government institutions while Jordan continues to import 97 per cent of its energy needs.

Jordan has one refinery, Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JPRC), which operates through a monopoly contract.

Its 50-year monopoly was supposed to expire in 2006, but was extended for 20-25 years in 2008 in order to enable it to attract a strategic partner and improve its performance, and not necessarily its output.

The JPRC supplies 50 per cent of oil derivatives, while the rest is imported by three other companies.

Jordan’s dependence on subsidised Iraqi oil from the Saddam regime enabled all kinds of inefficiencies to flourish.

The Iraqi subsidy derailed the development of shale oil, which was studied and evaluated as an option, and whose reserves were estimated then as being the fourth largest in the world.

Jordan’s energy managers did nothing since oil was coming in cheap.

Then, the Egyptian gas came and the being so inexpensive for power generation, this also impeded focus on shale oil or renewable energy sources.

Subsidies from unreliable sources proved detrimental to reforming the energy sector, and continue to be so today.

The first energy strategy in recent times came in 2004, several months after the collapse of the Iraqi regime.

What were the energy managers waiting for?

The next strategy came in 2007 and stipulated that demand would decrease by 5 per cent and that 20 per cent of the energy supply was to come from renewable sources such as sun and wind.

But in six years, the energy portfolio was handled by nine ministers, six in the last three years.

Obviously one reason there is a lethargic, almost imperceptible, performance in the field of energy and energy management in Jordan is the lack of long-term leadership in managing this portfolio.

Lack of long-term leadership leads to decreased capacity, as middle management leaves with the constant fast changing of the guards.

In the interim, the willingness of people to continue to accept the burden of the government/s’ folly in managing this portfolio, by accepting to pay more fees and taxes, encourages continuing the absence of reform, just like the subsidies in the past.

As someone once said, there is no need for conspiracies or conspiracy theories when there is mediocrity.