Money Not Spent, Money Not Made

Randa Habib at the Jordan Times wrote an interesting op-ed recently about government spending on conferences hosted in Jordan. In it she argued that the government has enough financial troubles without having to cover the costs of these events.

Take for example the media conference that was held a few days ago in Amman. I was appalled to learn that the hotel bills and all the meals of the participants were covered by Jordan. Why should we burden ourselves with these expenses? Doesn’t the country have enough financial problems?

she went on to say how the money would have been better spent.

Why don’t the same companies sponsor, some meals for poor families during this Holy Month of Ramadan, instead of paying for rich media groups?

(in the fallacy world this is called an appeal to pity)

Arab hospitality does not apply here, and it is time that we start being practical. Charity begins at home

(and this is called a cliche) here’s another: it takes money to make money.

First off the ‘article’ is a bit confusing because she says "covered by Jordan" and the use of "ourselves" suggests the country (or government), but then she goes on to talk about Jordanian companies so the shift in meaning is uncertain. Though I am assuming she is talking about both the Jordanian Government spending on conferences as well as Jordanian companies.

The former is understandable and arguable though the latter is a bit silly because companies belong to a free market, if they wish to sponser events for their own benefit they are free to do so, if they want to feed the poor then they can do that to (a lot of them do that actually). The point is, it’s a free market and the Jordanian people have nothing to do with it in terms of holding them responsible. So I’ll talk about Government Spending since many if not most of these conferences are government funded.

When Jordan hosts a conference or even several conferences on the same day (as if time frame mattered) it does not do it out of "hospitality" it does it because it is the only way to get out there. "There" being the world stage. You cannot advertise without putting in some money for promotion and in most cases marketing does increase sales. What Jordan is doing is simply putting itself on the map and this doesn’t happen by saying "hey I know you don’t know who we are and I know we are currently practically irrlevent in this field, but we were thinking of putting on a conference so if you wouldn’t mind paying for your plane ticket, hotel room, food, transportation and services…"

The reason conference centers such as the King Hussein convention center in the dead sea or the intercon-aqaba 5 star conference halls were built by both the government and private sector alike were for the purpose of attracting the great minds and players of respective fields to come to Jordan and talk. Talk and present and think and share ideas and philosophies and make connections, build bridges, sign agreements and fund trade.

If my tax money is going towards putting Bill Gates in a 5-star hotel room just to get him to Jordan, I wouldn’t mind, because for once we’d be doing something useful with the money. When you have a conference like the World Economic Forum being held in Jordan for example, hosting essentially hundreds of experts, leaders and CEO’s, I don’t mind. Because at the end of the day you do get millions and millions of dollars worth of trade deals and pacts in the span of 3 days. You are paying for access. Media Conferences, Rebuilding Iraq, the World Economic Forum; all of these are essential to Jordan so I don’t mind covering the bill on a steak dinner if it means bringing these people into an unknown player in the region, the result of which is a gain, beit monetary or knowledge, both are essential to building the infrustructure of all sectors in our country, whether local businesses or even professionals in the media industry. If Mohammad won’t come to the mountains then the mountains will come to Mohammad.

What Jordan is doing is putting it’s name on the map by bringing these people in; paid for public relations. At the same time these conferences bring money into the country one way or another. Maybe with that money we can fund the business sector Maybe with a bigger business sector we’ll have more jobs Maybe with more jobs we can help cure unemployment Maybe with more people employed we’ll have more people putting food on their table and less being asked to have it put there by the government. Charitable works are always done during Ramadan irregardless of conferences or whatever else government spending goes towards. It is not the government’s job nor its responsibility to go door to door and put food on people’s plates every night. It is their duty to create a working environment in which people can earn for themselves and feed themselves. for the sake of burnt out cliches: give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life (unless he eventually finds a life of cannibalism to be a lot easier)


  • well said, thier are certain events and conferences that have been held in Jordan, that I would have never imagined would choose a country like Jordan to host. These events are obviously expensive, and yes Jordan is financially frail, but if a few of the worlds largest companies begin to consider Jordan as a market for financial investment, then I believe that these expenses are justified.

  • And where does this money come from that is being spent on these conferences? Yes some probably comes from money raised from the Jordanian people or companies doing business in Jordan….but one would also have to consider much comes from the USA, EU, IMF and other creditors that write off loans given to Jordan.

  • This reminds me of someone who said building extra play grounds for kids is better than spending money on tourism for instance!
    There is no “better” actually. On the long run both are very important, helping the needy and improving the country’s economy.Maintaining as many public relations with the outside world as possible is very critical to Jordan. If we have any slight chance to go international or global its just stupid to waste it. Allow me to ask also, how not spending on such events will guarantee spending on charity? And is it better to feed them for a day or two or find them jobs that provide them with a whole lot better?

  • I think she might have a valid point to some extent. We shouldn’t just go out and say “we’ll pay for everything”. Conferences are big money makers in the short term too, not only the long term. You can at least first try discount offers, reduced prices at sponsering hotels and restaurants, paying for certain things, but paying for everything might be a little extreme. Or if you really need certain parties there and they’re just not that interested, then cover their bills (to the minimum), but you don’t have to cover everyone else’s.

    To me this is not about what they could have spent that money on as much as it is about whether each dinar that was spent was actually well thought of in terms of its returns.

    Take casino owners for example, they don’t give every person in the hotel a royal suite. They only give it to those they know they’re gonna get their money back from and more. And we need to play it smart the same way. Casino owners don’t do that because they are greedy casino owners, no. They do it because they’re business people, and in business, this is what you do; you carefully think every dinar that you’re spending.

    Conferences are a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still screw everything up by not having a good budget.

  • I’m with the school of thought that asks how much will I get back on every Dinar that I’m going to spend ? I’m not talking here about an instantaneous return, I’m talking about current and future yields. For instance : How long will it take me to get my money back ? 5 years 10 years 20 years ? And so on. If there is no chance that I’m going to ever get my monies worth back at any future date, then these conferences are worthless, by contrast, if the chance even a small one would guarantee for me my money, then these conferences are worth every piaster that was put in it.

Your Two Piasters: