Amman Wins World Leadership Award

Called in last minute to attend a press conference at the amaneh (city hall), I was surprised to discover the Greater Amman Municipality had won the World Leadership award in the Town Planning category. Apparently, Amman is also Asia-Pacific city of the year. And while the city I love won, in a bit of surprising irony, one of the two other shortlisted cities that lost was the city I grew up in as a kid: Brampton. The contrast of both these cities is abundant, to say the least. But the local Toronto press seems to be up in arms about all the money Brampton spent on so-called “schmoozing”. What’s that all about? Oh right, accountability. That awful thing.

Anyways, the conference entailed the usual tediousness, with journalists asking a hundred questions but as usual, none of them the right ones, or in other words, none of them the type that would have security escort you out the building. So I spent the time in between listening to Mayor Maani’s Q&A with the press, and text-messaging everyone I have recently neglected to respond to out of forgetfulness.

As I was leaving I caught up with Lina who was also in attendance. She was telling me about how there seem to be so many plans, exciting ones for that matter, and that we won an award for planning but not implementation. This conversation reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for some time now.

In these past few years there has been an emphasis by the state on planning. It’s actually great. We all love plans. We all love the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, the state is learning the fine art of planning for the future; of vision and leadership, and that’s not a bad start compared to the culture of a decade ago.

Planning, vision, leadership. These are all great terms. Indeed, there is a love for plans, agendas and lengthy documents with pretty pictures and that’s all good.

Yet, few plans are realised, few visions are fulfilled and as for leadership, well it seems to be short lived.

From Ministers to various government officials, there is a general understanding that if you want to leave a mark, or in other words, if you want to hang around longer than a one year term, then you’ve got to have a game plan. Some thing nice and lengthy with your name on it. Preferably with a power point presentation.

After a few months, or maybe just a little over a year, that plan gets shelved and the next guy comes in and starts writing up his/her own little document with their name on it.

That’s my general perception about these plans.

Now, as for the Amman Master Plan and this award in particular.

First of all, congratulations to Maani and the GAM; as far as planning, they’ve done a whole lot of it. Second of all (there’s always one, right?), the Master Plan is undeniably ambitious but has massive shortfalls. People seem to forget that Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world compared to real income. The division between East and West Amman is a river that runs very, very deep. Necessary infrastructure is often absent, and none currently exists that could ever hope to sustain modern high rise structures allocated in the plan. Traffic remains chaotic despite massive (and appreciated) efforts to remedy the situation, and that is due to various reasons, including the total absence of organized and functioning public transportation.

And this list, this second-of-all, goes on and on and on.

The general public tends to be shut out of all the planning. Sure, there are various sessions for the public to voice their opinions, and that has been especially true of the GAM (to their credit), but nevertheless, to what extent the average Jordanian’s voice can actually affect public policy is debatable.

And so we depend on people in positions of power to do the planning and make the decisions they feel are right for us. That’s politics.

The most I, or anyone can do, is pray.

Pray that plans have taken in to consideration the essentials. Pray that the plans won’t end up widening the demographic rift. Pray that a leadership award entails, you know, actual leadership.

Pray for fulfillment.


  • Well, that is great news! It’s noticed and highly appreciated that GAM is doing a hard work -focused on traffic- to solve many issues.

    Planning is a good thing, implementing or at least trying to implement is greater. No one can deny the fact that many things started to get better, there are efforts.

    Won’t be proud of anything more than seeing our Arab world free and on top…

  • The GAM under Maani’s management surely had value in development scope. However, they inherited many BIG mistakes from before, like abdali implementation, Jordan gate details, ghamadan forest usage, destroyed/non-maintained infrastructure.. I ve been looking into announcements of the master plan and its headlines, yet no official document i found, waiting for the full release after the fifth announcement. Does anyone know where to find any detailed document in that regard?

  • The GAM may be trying hard, the Mayor may be cool and gets it, has a few good people around him who have invested good effort and resources into the planning. But like most of our challenges, what we plan for and what (if) is implemented are many times quite different. We also dont truly look at people behavior and customize accordingly – I really find a huge disconnect between the physical structure of this city and how people behave, or need to live.

    A dear, departed friend once said, “what we aspire for and what we are are two different things.”

    I blogged this angrily back on Sept 12:
    ….We are amazing at vision, headlines, mandates, initiatives and business plans endorsed by the best advisers and consultants money can buy. We suck at implementation. We suck at continuity. We suck at evaluation. We suck at revision. We suck at reflection. We suck at accountability…..

    And although back then I was referring to our broadcast fiasco (which remains unresolved and worsening), I guess it applies to more than that.

    At the end of the day, a dream remains a dream and a plan remains a plan until hard, determined work goes into the implementation.

  • يا ناس يا عالم،عن أي تخطيط تتحدثون؟أذا كنتم تشيرو الي عمان الغربيه وما حصل من دمار بيئي الي عبدون وديرغبار والمناطق المحيطه بها،فهذا ليس تخطيط وانما تدمير لما تبقا من أراضي كانت تعتبر من أخصب وأحسن المناطق لزراعه الاشجار الحرجيه والمثمره،ليس هناك تخطيط لمدينه عمان وانما تدمير بجمله لما تبقا من مساحات هائله من الاأرضي ،لا يمكن ان تحصل اي “تنميه” بدون أخد في الحسبان تطوير وتحسين وحمايه البيئه
    Watch a short documentary about planing of Amman and how people live on the other side.

  • Congratulations to Amman
    This is a FYI note in appreciation of an ex collegue of ours Gerry Post. He was our Team Leader in the Bangladesh Environment Management Project (BEMP)
    Gerry Post was the anchor person in preparing the
    ” The Dhaka Environment Programme — a one generation strategy to save the city from environmental catastrophe”
    Now that he is a member of the winning Amman Team, we are very proud of him and can relate to his contribution.
    The Dhaka Environment Programme did not get any international award but it has become one of the saviour document for the Dhaka city and its citizen is indebted to Gerry Post and his BEMP team.
    Thank you Amman for proving that a regional city can do it.

  • alurdunialhurr –

    This neighborhood, Jabal Nathif, is the focus of a project spearheaded by ARAMEX and includes several private sector partners who collaborate with existing orgs in the neighborhood. MAANI are one of the corporate partners supporting this RUWWAD project in Nathif (and were at it before Eng Omar Maani was appointed Mayor).

    RUWWAD have done a lot of work with the community there since this video which is fairly old – a year or so I think.

    You should visit Jabal Nathif and see the beginnings of transformation, and of course how much more work needs to be done. But it’s started, and things are improving for the community as per their own testimonials.

    Their website:

    Having said all this, Nathif is one of many such neglected/forgotten areas in this city and around the country which need immediate action to enable their communities to exist in proper dignity and feel good about the space they live in.

  • As a continuation of Arabian Monkey’s comment, I sat down with Fadi Ghandour back in 2006 in an unrelated interview and the discussion drifted to combating rural poverty and he mentioned his project but was not aiming to build publicity out of it and kindly asked me not to write about it until an impact was done. He presented the results in the last WEF in the corporate responsibility session.

Your Two Piasters: