By Khetam Malkawi – Jan 17,2016

AMMAN — The Cabinet on Sunday reviewed a new national water strategy that will cost the Kingdom JD5.3 billion over the next 10 years, Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said.

The 2016-2025 water strategy will entail implementing several projects to secure additional water resources, as Jordan is the world’s second water-poorest country, added Momani, who is also minister of state for media affairs and communications.

At a press conference following the Cabinet meeting, Momani told reporters that the national strategy also seeks to reduce the cost of producing one cubic metre of water from JD1.9 to JD1.4.

Currently, one cubic metre of water is sold to consumers at JD1, and “this price will not change”, he said.

Water consumption in the country increased by 20 per cent due to the influx of Syrian refugees, the minister added, and this strategy will provide the Kingdom with new water resources expected to amount to 178 million cubic metres (mcm).

The dams’ capacity alone will be increased, as per the strategy, by 25 per cent, according to Momani.

Water loss due to technical reasons and theft will also be reduced from 50 per cent to 30 per cent, under the plan.

One of the strategic projects is the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project (Red-Dead), which entails providing 187mcm of water in the first phase and 235mcm in the second phase, the government spokesperson said.

In addition, JD80 million will be invested in energy projects related to the water sector.

Momani also announced that the Cabinet approved increasing the oil storage capacity by raising the number of gas storage tanks from five to eight through a $26 million grant from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

In addition, the Cabinet approved a request by the National Electric Power Company to borrow JD388 million, he said, noting that the company’s accumulative debts stand at JD5.2 billion.

The Council of Ministers also decided to exempt liquefied natural gas imports from the 36 per cent customs duty, and impose a 16 per cent sales tax.

Meanwhile, the minister noted that the Kingdom has spent 93 per cent of the Gulf Cooperation Council grant to Jordan in 2015.

Smart IDs

At Sunday’s meeting, the Cabinet decided to add extra information to the planned smart ID card, a project that will be implemented over two stages this year, Momani said.

The tax number and required travel information, as well as basic information about citizens, will be included in the smart ID card, which can be used to replace the driving licence, in addition to the health insurance and social security cards.

The first national ID card will also use fingerprint recognition technology and — later — iris scans.

In November last year, ICT Minister Majd Shweikeh said the government will announce the mechanism to register citizens, noting that 5 million smart ID cards will be issued in 2016.
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