A Sit-down with Hamdi Tabbaa

Our guest today, Hamdi Tabbaa, held many positions. He was the former Minister of Industry, Trade and supply, a member of the Senate several times and today, heads the Federation of Arab Businessmen and The Jordanian Businessmen Association. Your Excellency, I would like to welcome you and start our dialogue discussing the Jordanian Businessmen Association which you’re heading. Tell us briefly about the role of this association and its activities.

Hamdi Tabbaa: The Jordanian Businessmen Association was founded in 1985 according to a Royal vision, it was not the idea of the private sector. The late King Hussein found that there must be an association for all Jordanian businessmen that includes all economic activities in addition to other institutions at the time. The Association has been founded 32 years ago now. On the 30th anniversary of its foundation, His Majesty King Abdullah II honored me with a letter, which I received from the Chief of the Royal Hashemite Court, His Excellency Dr. Fayez Al-Tarawneh, emphasizing on the association’s role in attracting investments to Jordan. The association’s objective was only to attract investments to Jordan and defining the investment environment in Jordan and I found that the best thing is to have a joint business council. The association today has around 30 joint business councils with a lot of Arab countries and others. As I previously mentioned, with a Royal support, it was able to attract several investments. For example, and I repeat, French investments were supported by His Majesty King Abdullah II, we accompanied him to France several times and met with French businessmen and there was an clear intentions from the French side, meaning the private sector. So today the French investment, the non-Arabic, is in the lead. There were Turkish investments, we accompanied His Majesty in several visits to Turkey, also to Kazakhstan and Spain. In one of the visits of the  Jordanian Businessmen Association, we went to Romania and met with a large number of Romanian businessmen and officials. During the presentation of my paper on Jordan, I found that it was best to speak from a different point of view which will capture the attention of any businessman. I mentioned that my colleagues and me come from a small country but it has big ambitions, there is a stability regarding economic legislations and we welcome all Romanian investors, we must benefit from their Romanian experiences in certain aspects. We had delegations coming to us and accordingly the Association was honored to be an honorary member of the Bucharest Chamber of Commerce.

You have met recently with His Excellency the Speaker of Jordan’s House of Representatives, Atef Tarawneh, as the Jordanian Businessmen Association and discussed several important issues in the Jordanian economy, one of them is tax evasion control and things that could help boost the Jordanian economy. What were the main outcomes of this meeting?

Hamdi Tabbaa: In fact, our meeting with His Excellency, the Speaker of Jordan’s House of Representatives, Atef Tarawneh was driven by our responsibility as an association that must have an effective role in the economic legislations. Honestly, Mr. Atef Tarawneh was very open in this meeting and we agreed to place a strategy together regarding taxation in general, so that Jordan can become more active regarding investments. He has assigned the association of examining all the aspects which the Jordanian citizen and investor have to bear as a result of taxation . We agreed with Mr. Atef to have another meeting soon, before the authorization of the tax law or tax amendments by the government, through a workshop for the Jordanian Parliament and the Jordanian Businessmen Association. The issue of tax evasion is unacceptable, unfortunately the current law has some loopholes which we are now examining but in return there must be a fair tax law for each citizen to be able to tolerate. Our responsibility as Jordanian citizens is to pay tax, but as I mentioned it must be fair and suitable for investment.

Your Excellency, you are heading also the Federation of Arab Businessmen, in addition to the Jordanian Businessmen Association. Therefore, you have recently presented an excellent proposal regarding the cost of transporting goods by land or air. Additionally, you spoke of a very good idea concerning Businessmen passports, in order to facilitate their movements. Let us talk about the reality of Investment in the Arab world and about this idea as well.

Hamdi Tabbaa: The centre of the Federation of Arab Businessmen is in Amman. The Jordanian government has signed with us an agreement through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, as a result we have several diplomatic advantages. But the idea of the Federation of Arab Businessmen first came from the late King Hussein in the first conference, he said that Arab governments have taken enough of your roles, now it is the turn of the Federation of Arab Businessmen to undertake a full economic rising. The Federation now took upon itself this thing and we organize an economic forum each year in an Arab country. During the upcoming months the 16th forum will be held in the Dead Sea in Jordan, invitations will be sent to all Arab businessmen. The form implies that Arab money is supposed to circulate in Arab countries and all borders in its way must be vanished. The problem which you pointed out Mr. Abdullah regarding the movement of Arab businessmen between Arab countries, it is not easy. We requested for special passport or an ID for Arab businessmen, in order for them to be able to manage their money and investments, some countries responded but others still have issues with that. I am talking about Arab money, it is available in the Arab world and investment opportunities in it are very big, except for oil. I’m talking, for example, about goods like food, railways, aviation and land transport, all of that requires all Arab countries to be open. From this point of view, I am calling upon Arab governments, and I will keep calling upon them, to open the borders between Arab countries, especially that there is a major Arabic Free-Trade agreement which 22 Arab countries has signed which guarantees the flow of Arab products between these countries without any obstacles. Unfortunately, some countries did not commit to it. I believe it is the role of the Arab League to orient these countries towards the right direction, especially after His Majesty headed the Arab summit last year in the Dead Sea. We are hoping for positive outcomes from the Arab League Secretariat, whom we have very good relations and friendship with, and hoping together we can remove all obstacles from the way of Arab businessmen.

In conclusion, since you’re the Chairman, kindly tell us about the future plans of the Jordanian Businessmen Association.

Hamdi Tabbaa: We have planned so much to a point that the Board of Directors is complaining.

From so much planning.

Hamdi Tabbaa: Lately, we have met with some Ambassadors, some of them have no economic relations with Jordan yet. Soon this year there will be several Jordanian business councils with European and Latin American countries to open new markets. As I mentioned before, how can we promote Jordan for investment and economy. This is only achieved through meetings, not correspondence. The Association takes full responsibility and flies to other countries on its own expenses without imposing costs on anyone else, to meet up with colleagues in associations similar to ours, we inform them of our plans, especially now concerning encouraging investment, we have around 120 projects that need marketing. I believe the government has done its part but the private sector must be the main generator behind attracting attention to these projects.

We at Amman TV, from Al-Mo’asher in particular, will keep always in touch from the Jordanian Businessmen Association and all Jordanian and local associations which support our national economy. It was a great pleasure meeting Your Excellency Hamdi Tabbaa, the Chairman of the Jordanian Businessmen Association Board. Thanks to the audience for watching Al-Mo’asher, see you next time.