Tripoli: April 9
Jordan is becoming increasingly unhappy over unpaid bills totalling $225 million for the medical treatment and hotel accommodation of . . .[restrict]Libyans, with new charges being run up at the rate of $2 million a day.
Since last August more than 20,000 Libyans have gone to Jordan for medical treatment. The total number of Libyan visitors has swollen the figure to around 50,000, because many patients took husbands or wives and children with them.
What was originally supposed to have been a benefit for tens of thousands of wounded fighters and civilians injured in the conflict, instead turned into a free-for-all. People who had all sort of medical problems inveigled their way into the programme. Indeed it has been estimated that the majority of those who went to Jordan had normal ailments and should never have been selected for the scheme.
The scandal was compounded last January when someone sent from Libya to pay some of the Jordanian medical and hotel bills absconded with the funds.
The initiative was suspended in February when in just six months, the bill had already reached $800 million. The government had been funding, not only the treatment but the travel and accommodation for patients and relatives.
Deputy Premier Mustafa Abushagur, estimated that at least half of the people who had been sent abroad for treatment had not been injured in the conflict.In his view only between ten and 15 percent were actually injured fighters.
The government’s attempt to contain the expenditure on this programme may be in part responsible for the delays that are so annoying the Jordanians. Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association (PHA) and the Jordan Hotels Association report that a Libyan official told them in March that all bills were being audited. It is unclear if this is to simply to check the invoices are correct or whether there is a wider move to start charging Libyans who have abused the system.
The two Jordanian associations have complained to their prime minister, Awn Khasawneh. The hospitals which are owed $126 million, told the Jordan Times yesterday said that since last August only $28 million had been paid.
PHA president Awni Bashir was quoted by the paper as warning: “If the Libyan authorities do not fulfil their financial obligations to the hospitals and hotels quickly, the services offered to the Libyans will be affected.
“The hotel and hospital sectors are very important to Jordan’s economy. It is important that the government urge the Libyans to immediately pay the bills.”