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Amman needs more public spaces, better services

May 09,2017 - Last updated at May 09,2017

One wonders if officials at the Greater Amman Municipality know of the lack of public parks in the ever-growing capital, said to now house some 4 million people.

Do officials not see Ammanites picnicking on the sides of main streets at weekends, barbecuing while their children play in dangerous areas because of the lack of public spaces?

Maybe it is time to remind the municipality that it is its duty to provide essential services to the citizens who pay heavy taxes, which makes their capital one of the most expensive in the region, but who get few services in return, including proper sidewalks, free recreational spaces, playgrounds and public parks.

This week the municipality announced that it was closing Al Jubeiha Amusement Park, immediately, because of safety reasons, but is planning to build a new one on the same location, visited last year by almost half a million people, which generated JD1 million revenues for the municipality.

The sum is meagre, when compared to the size of the investment, which takes a prime location in a hilly, scenic area, about 1,000 metres above sea level, that overlooks Baqaa Valley to the west, Jerash and Ajloun to the north, and the distant eastern Amman and Zarqa Governorate to the east and south.

Built over 54 dunums that already include a small forest, it would be better to turn the theme park into a public park that would serve many areas of Amman and the surrounding governorates.

The million generated, one would think annually, can be made up by building and renting few commercial spaces, such as restaurants and shops, provided that they remain few and not in the park, but adjacent to it.

If Amman needs a theme park, that can be left to the private sector which can do a better job in running and maintaining such a service.

If the municipality is determined to build and run such a service — which sounds as a bad idea, seeing how our bureaucrats are ill-equipped to run and maintain such a project in the long run — it can do so in other less developed areas of Amman where land prices are still reasonable and on build-operate-transfer basis or any other formula it finds fit.

This could help develop that area and offer some investment opportunities to some parties.

The municipality should focus more on offering public services than on building a project that is bound to turn — like many other before — into a welfare scheme offering jobs to more unneeded employees getting hired through the magic power of wasta to waste tax-payers’ money rather than efficiently serve them.

Big private companies should also do their part, contributing to building parks, playgrounds, youth centres, libraries along with other services, in various parts of the country, as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes.

 

It is a collective responsibility to make out of Amman a place we can always pride ourselves in, a place that we all call home.

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