Political Corruption Amidst Jordan’s “Decent Housing For Decent Living” Initiative

Former Minister of Public Works, Sahel al-Majali, has been the on-again, off-again center of a brewing scandal regarding the royal initiative: decent housing for decent living. Today, columnist Jamil Nimri opened the Pandora’s box on the whole issue with some rather interesting findings.

Briefly, the initiative was set to build 100,000 homes for poor Jordanians, offering them at reduced and/or affordable prices, with payments due over a lengthy period of time. The initiative was essentially designed to improve the living standards of poor Jordanians, building a declared 20,000 units every year.

What Nimri depicts is essentially a story of massive corruption, which I doubt will surprise most Jordanians. Majali essentially created a semi-independent entity to be in charge of the whole project, which was called the “National Company for Development and Construction”. This entity would, through contract, be managed by a company that was able to carry out the project and sell the units, whose prices increased dramatically from 15-17 thousands JDs to 35 thousand.

So apparently, the National Company was formed but only two companies bid for the tender: one was a construction company run by the Jordanian military (sigh) and the other was called the “Decent Living Coalition”. The whole bid was only 25 days, which, as Nimri points out was not enough time for any company to properly assess its ability to carry out a project this big.

Now, one of the companies that makes up the “Decent Living Coalition” is actually owned by the Minister himself (double sigh).

To their credit, the Audit Bureau noticed the “discrepancy” and objected to the company’s involvement leading to the head of the Central Tenders Committee issuing a memo inquiring about the issue, but while away on business, the memo was overwritten. In the latest reshuffling of Nader Dahabi’s government, Majali switched portfolios with Alaa Batayneh, Minister of Transport, the latter who shut down the whole formed entity.

Perhaps even more embarrassing is that the salary of the manager for this entity, which did absolutely nothing, was 8,000JDs a month, whiles its running costs were 1 million.

Assuming Nimri’s findings (some of which have already been widely reported) are true, which I would safely assume they are, this fiasco will probably end up being one of the most memorable cases of political corruption in the Kingdom. It is literally the rich and powerful, stealing from the poor, and in the most hideous of ways. But given the country’s political system, this is unlikely to be the last such case. This system is fairly conducive to these happenings.

My hope is that an investigation will be launched and Majali be questioned over his apparent involvement, and if found guilty, resign his post and have the case submitted to the justice system for a trial.

I also hope that this process will be done in a transparent manner for the sake of the public who are essentially the victims here.

But in Jordan, I admit, these are fairly high hopes.

Other Bloggers:
Jordan Reform Watch


  • my dad is a perfectionist and finds it very difficult to work with some people. but not muhammad, the page boy in the office, who my dad loves. he doesn’t have a tawjihi, but he does his job fully and superbly.
    so when he approached my dad about helping him sort out the papers for ‘beit kareem li 3aish kareem’, with a huge smile on his face, explaining ‘3ashan atjawaz’ my dad was thrilled. i remember him telling me how glad he was that such an initiative was finally seeing light, to benefit ppl like muhammad, who work hard and with dedication, but would never dream of owning a house.
    the day the applications for the houses had to be handed in, muhammad started quing from 6 am, and he wasn’t the only one. he had to call in and take the day off bcoz there wer that many ppl, and they all had to wait in the sun for hours. but i am sure none of them minded, bcoz they finally felt hope.
    i guess i just felt i had to share his story. bcoz like u said, this is not just corruption, it is direct theft from ppl with no means.
    and they didn’t steal mohammad’s money, not directly at least, but they stole smth worse: his hope, his dream, for a different kind of life out of the mukhayam.

  • One has to wonder if Majali the most powerful man in jordan? Or does he have powerful partners, because they seem to be above accountability, you know, it is like they know something, thus they are untouchable; you f the hell up and steal and what is your punishment? You become a minister of something else.

  • “My hope is that an investigation….these are fairly high hopes.”
    These are not just high hopes, these are unrealistic (not to say laughable) hopes.

    This Sahel al-Majali story has been out in the open for many months now.
    People who are close to the Ministry of Public Work and Housing thought that al-Majali had practically resigned (when the story was reported a few months ago) and he just did not want to make his departure public to avoid embarrassment, so he was just waiting for the next government shuffle to leave quitely.

    But little they knew, after the music stopped Sahel al-Majali “found himself” a Transportation Minister flipping chairs with another second-generation old-guard-family minister. (I just wonder if Naseem still thinks that much had changed in the Jordanian political scene over the past 10 years!)

    Now, given that:
    -The latest version of the government was approved by his majesty, and
    -A member of that reshuffled cabinet was “allegedly/potentially” a part of a major corruption case

    Can we conclude that:
    -Either his majesty does not bother to follow up on his own initiatives – and does not care if they get hijacked by his inner circle – proving that they are nothing more than blabber, and that he is as out of touch with local reality as he appears to be (despite all the theatrical hugging of Bedouin women)…

    -Or his majesty is actually encouraging this inner circle to take advantage of such initiatives (and other projects that he proposes, approves or secures) as a reward for their loyalty – as long as he gets his cut along the way. [As “The king is my partner” has been rumoured to be a favourite bragging phrase among Jordanian “businessmen” over the past few years ]!!

    Can someone please come up with any other explanation to the “country’s master” role/stance/reaction to this particular (other than the trivial and false allegation that he has nothing to do Jordan and he is just here for transit stops in between flights)….

  • My hope is that an investigation will be launched and Majali be questioned over his apparent involvement, and if found guilty, resign his post and have the case submitted to the justice system for a trial.

    you reminded me of when the israeli army does an investigation over allegations of soldier misconduct then “tries them” 😀

  • عرب تايمز – خاص

    وجهت المعارضة الاردنية التي تتخذ من واشنطن مقرا لها رسالة مفتوحة الى الرئيس باراك اوباما بمناسبة الاعلان عن زيارة ملك الاردن لواشنطون تناولت فيها هموم ومشكلات الاردنيين مع النظام الملكي في الاردن معززة الرسالة بتقارير وروابط لبيانات صدرت عن منظمات حقوق الانسان ومنظمات امريكية حول الاوضاع المزرية للاردنيين في ظل الحكم الملكي وعلمت عرب تايمز ان وفدا يمثل المعارضة ويضم عددا من اساتذة الجامعات الامريكية من اصول اردنية بصدد مقابلة اوباما قبل الزيارة المعلن عنها لملك الاردن … وتضمن الرسالة معلومات عن السجون الاردنية وسجون المخابرات وما يدور فيها من تعذيب وعن حالات الفساد المستشري في المملكة برعاية ملكية كما تناولت الرسالة الدور غير الدستوري الذي تلعبه الملكة رانيا والذي يصل الى درجة تعيين واقالة الوزراء ودورها في عزل الامير حمزة من ولاية العهد تمهيدا لتعيين ابنها بدلا منه واشارت الرسالة الى ان الملك عبدالله يتحدث العربية بصعوبة وانه يعيش بمعزل عن هموم المواطنين الاردنيين … وفيما يلي النص الكامل للرسالة المفتوحة

  • Dear President Obama

    In light of the imminent visit of King Abdullah II to the United States, we are writing you this letter concerning the current political, social and economic developments and landscapes in Jordan. Please do not allow King Abdullah II to deceive or sidetrack you! The King says one thing in the presence of foreign leaders, dignitaries and world press and media, but acts very differently back home. For instance, the King is using international forums and other international gatherings for merely public image and propaganda to show his western audience and his foreign interlocutors that he is a real democrat believing in democracy and human rights. Truly, he is a young yet growing thuggish dictator in the heart of the Middle East …

  • Nassim,

    I would draw your attention that its “sahil al-majali” and not “abdulhadi al-majali”, if you feel like correcting it.

  • Deena: appreciate the story…it puts a human face on the issue, which is needed. we tend to think of things in abstractions…and people are anything but that.

    Musa: my hopes may be unrealistic (or laughable in your case) but it’s my hope and mine alone however unreal it may seem. without it, i would spiral into an abyss of cynicism of which i know there is no exit.

    as for political changes. the landscape has changed, no one in their right mind can deny that. this doesn’t mean everything has become rosy and corruption has vanished. case in point, this is one issue that would never have seen the light of day over a decade ago. whether that is part of political progress or a consequence of the information age (probably more the latter), is unknown, but there has nonetheless been a change.

    as for your conclusions, well they are your own and of course you’re entitled to them. when it comes to this case, the public has a certain trust in a journalist like jamil nimri i.e. that he has his verified sources, and so my conclusions (as those of others) are based on the variables known in this specific case. i would think that conclusions outside the sphere of these same variables are simply fallacies.

    mo: yeah, sadly, it is kind of like that sometimes. especially with parliamentary committees.

    Ahmad: thanks for the correction……Freudian slip i guess 😉

  • Nas you should give it a rest man…..this country will NEVER change, there are families who will NEVER be touchable, so u have 3 options – 1) join the elite (Corrupt) and be like them or turn a blind eye (third of jordanians aspire to be in this inner circle) 2) leave the country because life is short and u should fulfill urself somewhere fit for human beings (europe, US, Dubai etc.), and i think at least a million jordanians took that choice or 3) be passive, silent majority member wi bikafi waja3 raas and focus on ur blogs talking about life, love, wisdom, nature, cristiano ronaldo lol ….coz if u think about it, ur really wasting ur time (And life!) :-)) take care…bala sakan kareem bala sakan zift! (as if ANYTHING good will actually ever materialise in this country, pffft…..)

  • …and to pre-empt ur answer it will be either:

    1) if we all think like this no one will be left in the country to change it and things will not be better


    2) yes i know its a waste of time but what do i have to lose…

    to that i will tell u:

    on (1) there is no pride in wasting a life trying to you know start a fire with matchsticks hoping it will warm a whole city, thats just stupid waste of time…there is no WANT for change in jordan, this is not egypt where u have “kifaya” movement and protests and what have u, people in jordan i believe are happy with what they get, hence the huge public participation in congratulating ministers in the newspapers when a new govt. is formed, the huge response in selling votes in parliament elections, the huge participation in new initiatives “shabab el ordon” and “ahel el himmeh” and whatnot…so people are happy, they just complain in very muted voices not enuff to change things, deep down MOST want to join the elite as i said and become ministers or marry into the corrupt families, cross their legs and smoke all day in a big public sector position, there is no Ghandi in this country NAS nor will there ever be one…..and hence as i said u have a million or so who left, and out of 5 million still there i think if they offered them a chance to go to dubai or europe if 95% leave i wont be surprised lol

    if ur answer is (2) then for ur sake dont fall into a sense of false security that i can raise any topic and say anything even if ur reassured everyday, we have seen bloggers in egypt and saudi what befell them so just take care!! and the question is not what do i have to lose, the question is it worth it? am i changing anything?…

  • “3) be passive, silent majority member wi bikafi waja3 raas and focus on ur blogs talking about life, love, wisdom, nature, cristiano ronaldo lol ….coz if u think about it, ur really wasting ur time (And life!) :-)) take care…bala sakan kareem bala sakan zift! (as if ANYTHING good will actually ever materialise in this country, pffft…..)”
    Iam not here to defend Naseem but to show the cynicism and hypocrisy that some people have around here, having said that
    First, Londoner,,the greatest thing in life that is worth while is to work for social justice, you want him to write about love ,well Londoner, let me break to you, he has been writing about it right in front of your eyes ,when Naseem brings the subject of corruption and embezzlement to his readers ,that means one thing and one thing only, his love and care for his people .
    second, you want him to write about wisdom, well Londoner that fine with me and maybe with nassem, you in return, suggest to him to join the corrupted elites ,i just wonder what kind of twisted wisdom and logic is that? .
    Third, you in return, want naseem to write about nature and when at the same time our nature has been destroyed by the same people you suggest to him to join, it’s just mind boggling and needless to say pathetic at best.

  • It seems Londoner has risen higher than his definition of elite status. Anyway, enjoy the ronaldo etc while WE in the real world strive to help improve issues in our country. We ought to remember we live in the third world not in London, a city belonging to the developing world! Also, if one must not give the country that stretched it’s arms out to feed you, then no London no place will have respect for worthless people with no pride nor identity or belonging!
    One must learn to give people a chance until proven guilty. If you actually read newspapers you will come to a conclusion that most” corrupt cases ” are always handled by our lawful and untouchable justice system. Look back in archives, they do exist. We are a transparent country although some don’t like to believe so! To conclude, stop attacking people just bec Jordan allows you to blog unlike other nations, doesn’t mean you have the right to attack his majesty or any soul for that matter. If you have facts then set them forth or else go and enjoy ronaldo!
    His majesty is trying to make Jordan a better place and if you truely care or give a dime help him make it worthliving in. Dogs bark, and men talk… Be a man, enlighten us with good thoughts. The problem with some ppl in this country is that they love to believe anything bad about their next door neighbour. We don’t give ppl a chance, we love ruining ppls reps, and in most cases we are a society infested with rumours and hatred for one another! Let live and let love. Give Jordan a chance were gd ppl wouldn’t have 6 mill ppl living here if we were that bad like other neighbouring head of states did to their ppl. Itaki Allah. Respect:-)

  • Musa: I’m sorry you seem like you’ve been living in a cave for the past few months. Don’t you have the conscience to have little praise for what his majesty has done for us? Nothing good worth mentioning? Ppl like his majesty don’t have cliques, his nation and the world supports him and respects him. There are numerous occasions that can’t be staged to prove that. Open your eyes and hearts, ur only hurting Jordan at the end of the day, that’s if you care. Remember, nobody gets away w anything in this day and age, if one public figure still has his/ her job is because innocent until proven guilty! It seems you’re the type who wld like to see others in chains and thrown in cells bec of a rumour gone out of proportion as always:-)

  • Rand:

    >>”with no pride nor identity or belonging”
    is this the 19th century ?? really, people still believe in such things.

    >> that most” corrupt cases ” are always handled by our lawful and untouchable justice system !!

    See sweety, we are talking about Jordan here. That small country in the middle east, in which people like (Sameh Al Bati’7i (Global business/140 Million dollar ), Ma3roof Al-ba’7eet (Dead sea casino, 1 billion dollar), Ali abu ra3’eb (.6 million dollar), Basem Awadallah (Slavery), Al-Majale’s (Decent housing), KA II .. etc) still rule.

    >>”his nation and the world supports him and respects him”,
    Here we go, the same old shit. This actually has always been the problem with silly people in Jordan. They think that Jordan is the center of the world, KA is GOD and Omar Alabdallat is his messenger.

    “top attacking people just bec Jordan allows you to blog unlike other nations”

    Wow .. I’m speechless. Really, people like you still exist ??

  • Ahmad,
    Listen if you believe in your demented mind all these allegations against the people you listed well then i’m so sorry you lack evidence and substance, IS THERE STILL PEOPLE LIKE YOU OUT THERE? YES be speechless ! I’m afraid there are a zillion people around the globe that defendtheir country and King for that matter. All you do is listen to rubbish it seems. How dare you accuse people without getting your facts right? Who the hell are you to accuse people left right and centre. God is God, lets quit blasphemy here, and get to the real thing. You should learn one important factor, regarless of era and time, humans will always stick to their pride, and identity isn’t this why we are having this debate??? I’m sure you come from a certain background, and also have an identity? Have you? I’m sure deep down you are frustrated, but please don’t put it on others, just because they have or had high positions in Government doesn’t men they are BAD. Its time to stick up to the truth, and kill rumours, unless you can stand up like a man Ahmad and give us FACTS. Why don’t you write up a letter and send it to all these people and ask them if all these allegations against them are correct or not? Itaki allah. Respect brother:-)
    Btw, please don’t SWEETY me, i’m all MALE????

  • Whoever was charged by our respected legal system was punished and paid there dues, jail time or repaying. Check all your facts and you’ll see like the rest of the judiciary world, when proven guilty you are sentenced to jail or In some cases ofcourse you pay back. No nuclear invention just pure laws. You just can’t throw in names and figures and tarnish peoples reputation, get your facts right then we’ll talk the talk.

  • Nas, don’t give up hope. Give up on people who fail, like this man, and corrupt hope, but not hope itself.

    One big difference between now and ten years ago: there is no hiding corruption like it is at this level anymore. Exposure is a great incentive to get transparent and accountable. Legitimate shame works.

  • Al-ordoni Alhurr – i think u missed the gist of what i was trying to say and the sarcastic tone, i wasnt encouraging him to be in the corrupt elite i was outlining to him the options that other people in the country took, not that i condone some of them…

    Rand – u should have, or at least pretend to have, some minimal degree of manners and respect to others, refrain from using words like “demented mind” and “have you been in a cave”, then we might take a look at what you are barking, sorry i mean shouting, at us and respond to your arguments…

    Ahmed – Thank you for listing all these cases….funny how some hypocrites who worship the hand that feeds them still asks people to “SHOW THE EVIDENCE” as if we are the FBI when some of these cases (Shamayla example) actually went to court, and the verdict was GUILTY…the only glitch was to give a 4-yr prison sentence for a JD100mn fraud case when you get 3-yrs for writing an article that defames the country or accuses a minister of something, or 15-years if you try sneak into palestine!!! seriously “untouchable and lawful judiciary system” LOL

    Kinzi – whats the point of keeping “false” hope? convince me plz…

  • Londoner : I apologise re the demented, but the cave part is true. As for the case you mentioned, at least justice took place, regardless of the sentence duration…

    what truely matters in our part of the world that there is justice, and we are a developing country with high hopes of becoming a better place. You can now go and enjoy the theatres and dream blissful dreams.

  • Kinzi,
    I think you are mistaken when you assume that today there is more exposure of corruption than there was ten or even twenty years ago. Despite the limited resources people were still aware of Abdel Hadi al-Majali’s corruption as a chief of police, the Hashemite’s role in weapons smuggling across the region, the Hashemite’s role in the Petra Bank bankruptcy, the names of most people who took care of catering for the American troops in the 1990 gulf war, the Ali abu Ragheb steel and insurance cases, among many other major and smaller cases which in a small country like Jordan are really hard to hide.

    If you are “hoping” to shame these people into accountability, then these are unrealistic hopes no doubt, because it is very obvious that the behaviour of these historic corruption figures (and thei yuppy offsprings) are only getting cruder, more shameless, and blatant to a disgusting level – banking on the public’s feelings of impotence, apathy, ignorance and collaboration (in a few cases).

    It is just insane to believe that things are different than they were over the past decades when you take a look at someone like Zaid Rifai – the rare man who was scolded and shamefully removed from his long-standing position by the late king Hussein for being the symbol of Jordanian corruption in the late 80s is currently heading the Jordanian parliament!! While of course his son is “rumoured” to be one of his majesty’s sub contractors!

    There is absolutely no shame in taking the positive perspective on things and keeping the hope, but to assume that things have been changing to the better and that all we need is a little bit of transparency and all would be fine is a step in the wrong direction that jeopardises that hope – especially for those who are not content with just observing with skepticism.

  • Rand,
    Justice is different from law. Laws are subjective and in many times fail to bring justice, let us take honor crimes for example, it is the law, but is that law just?
    Or, can we ask the king or any member of the royal family, or for that matter the majali clan where they got their money from? Are they paying taxes?

    What about the unlimited powers that the regime has? Is that just?
    You are either stupid,live in a state of denial that is beyond fixable, or a beneficiary of the status quo. The people that interarct in this space are more than clappers and chest beaters, so your “arguments” would be more suitable for an audience that is truly detached from reality, and audience that doens’t care to know because they don’t want to react or change the status quo either for fear or as in your case for being a benificiary of the status quo.

  • Dear All:

    Sorry to interrupt, but please avoid any personal attacks. The point of this blog and this platform right here is to speak freely within the arena of a healthy debate, and personalizing things tends to distract from that goal. In other words, please extend the same respect to fellow commentators as you would expect to receive in return.


  • If i were you I wld thank God for a country like Jordan amidst all the chaos in the region, can still give you peace of mind, knowing your children, and loved ones are safe… You should pay taxes for living and breathing in this country…

  • “You should pay taxes for living and breathing in this country…”
    Dude, in jordan people pay taxes on their shit; thus the whole process of metabolism is taxed.
    Aside from that, are you serious? If so then I will remove the either from my previous reply because you are: All of the above.

  • Mohanned: please observe my above note. you’re an important part of the debate, so don’t ruin it with name-calling.


  • Mohammad,
    Ppl pay taxes everywhere in the world, if it weren’t for that, governments cannot offer it’s citizens good services… You pay as much as you get in return. Google it..

  • “If i were you I wld thank God for a country like Jordan amidst all the chaos in the region, can still give you peace of mind, knowing your children, and loved ones are safe… You should pay taxes for living and breathing in this country…”

    Talk about lowering the expecations of a people so low that the mere fact he doesnt get beaten up and tortued in the street everyday is a blessing!! LOL honestly this is unbelivable…

    arent people in Dubai safe? arent they in all Gulf countries safe? so apart from i dont know Kabul, Baghdad and Gaza, whats so different to be happy about here? and am happy to pay taxes, but can you guarantee for me that ALL jordanian citizens pay income tax fairly? you know thats not true so dont be a devil’s advocate….

  • One of these construction sites is in al Rawda on the way to South Shouneh in the Jordan valley, the site is one of three main Dlomen fields in Jordan, the other two are being erased by quarries.

  • Londoner, this is real hope, not false. Human beings are going to do bad and selfish things as long as they inhabit the planet. I have no hope that humans will change for the better, but plenty of hope that humans of principle and courage will stand for it. Like we are right here.

    Look at what we are doing. Nas has the freedom to write about it, we have the freedom to comment. Ten years ago, we did not have a forum to gather this many like-minded people and discuss what is going on behind closed doors.

    Musa, thanks for all the details; it would be difficult to keep hope alive knowing all of that. I appreciate your last paragraph especially. Transparency is NOT all it takes, but vulnerability. the difference being allowing what is being shown to be touched and changed. Those who grew up in the generation of this parliament were the ‘ma baseer/never question out of fear’ generation. Nas’ generation skipped the transparency push and went straight to vulnerability.

    That’s why I have hope.

  • Wouldn’t be an excellent idea to create our own radio station so we can reach wider audience ,just like what people in the Bay area who took upon themselves to create such radio station that has million of listeners and viewers.
    may be we could create pirate radio station where we can broadcast to the people of Amman first and then expand it to other region..

    I would say ,its fairly easy and cheap tp craet with pirate raDIO STATION THAT DEALS WITH HOT ISSUE THAT WILL NEVER BE COVERED IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA,

  • forget corruption, forget untouchable families, forget all of this…

    can someone tell me, in this fair just utopia of a place, what happened to the low ranking policeman who bashed the head of the Aljazeera correspondent by kicking him with feet in front of cameras during the Gaza protests? its filmed and a complaint was filed…was he suspended? arrested? sent to prison?….wake up….

  • In the USA and Europe they literally throw u and stamp on u if in the middle of something similar. That guy didn’t identify himself I heard and soldiers take command to keep things moving smoothly but when someone obstructs their path they go for him like sharks.. It happens seen it with my own eyes many times.

  • There are newspapers read please! Where do u see ppl getting beaten up everyday? Where? Just say it? Come on it seems you’re mixing up countries here. Personally I don’t believe you unless they really deserve it and have done smthg really bad, buy guys this happens on the streets of la, ny, London also look out of the plexi- glass!

  • Being a journalist can suck virtually anywhere, but Jordan is safer than LOTS of other places. Granted, this is just me engaging in whataboutery (“What about Russia?! Way more dangerous than Jordan!”) but I just don’t want people to have the impression that we are constantly hounded.

  • ‘security’ in development issues has become the ‘3eib’ of our cultural issues – they completely sidetrack discussion away from the point (here: CORRUPTION).
    we do live in a secure state, il7amdillah, and i think all of us can agree we don’t want that to change. but what does security have to do with corruption in an ‘affordable’ housing scheme? nothing.
    corruption is corruption. responsible ppl should not be given new ministerial positions or allowed control over billion dollar schemes. they should be charged for: corruption.

  • This is why my as* is all the way in Los Angeles… To be perfectly honest, I thought he was a decent man at least… turns out to be malicious at best

Your Two Piasters: