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The storm has peacefully passed, thanks to the King’s wise leadership

Jun 12,2018 - Last updated at Jun 12,2018

Thanks to the unique leadership, the wisdom and the swift drastic action of His Majesty King Abdullah, the recent  crisis that beset the country has ended.

The King’s decision to designate Omar Razzaz as prime minister and replace the government that had precipitated the confrontation, has brought general relief throughout the country after a weeklong wave of demonstrations and protests. In fact, the protests and sit-ins came to a complete halt following Razzaz's announcement late last week that he would withdraw the controversial income tax draft law once sworn in. Before making his wise and timely announcement, Razzaz consulted with the two speakers of the House of Representatives and the Senate as required.

The announcement reduced the urgency of the situation, enabling people to return to their daily routine. But the root causes of the crisis are yet to be addressed and this is a major undertaking, not only for the upcoming Razzaz Cabinet, but also for all of us. 

All Jordanians must lend their support to the new administration, not just as spectators, commentators and cynical critics, but as active participants in the tedious long-term remedial process as well. 

The latest crisis was nothing more than a sporadic eruption of mounting economic pressure, which has been building up year by year. We are not unfamiliar to such eruptions and we are also accustomed to placing all the blame on the unfortunate government that had to bear the full brunt of the crisis, without fairly acknowledging that the government in question only inherited, rather than created, the problem.

The departing government of Hani Mulki that received all the blame for the current wave of protests, was only continuing what previous ones started, by way of raising taxes and charges, eliminating subsidies and tightening the noose on an overburdened populace. Its popularity, if ever it existed, continued to decline until its departure became a national goal. All former governments were blamed for similar reasons and even if the termination of their mandates were not the result of street protests, they were equally unpopular. The predecessor of Mulki’s government was generally referred to as the “the price raising government”.

The truth, often unrecognised, is that governments do not resort to such unpopular austerity measures voluntarily just to make people’s lives difficult. In Jordan, the economic crisis is real, even severe. For the last two decades the crisis has been compounded by mounting challenges, mostly related to regional instability and wars, not just the refugee issue, as well as rising costs of running the country and meeting the ever rising demands of an enlarged population. 

This does not mean that governments do not make mistakes and mismanage. All governments, worldwide, commit grave mistakes. Ours are no exception.

The former government made a number of mistakes that contributed to the populist eruption and for which it paid the price. The new government has inherited a very difficult situation and is faced with an enormous challenge.  

We, therefore, need to limit our expectations as to what is realistic and what is practically possible, which may have to be very modest, at least at the current and initial stages. 

Whenever Jordanians have found themselves in the midst of a crisis, they were able to demonstrate unique maturity and responsibility by putting the interest of their country first and foremost. 

However, not all motives are of a noble nature. The rebellion against the income tax draft law was not entirely altruistic.

Undoubtedly, some of the demands were legitimate, particularly those relating to articles in the draft law that hit the middle and the lower middle class, or the other articles that may have a negative impact on foreign investment, trade, agriculture and national industries. Similarly, Jordanians are also right to complain about poor public services that are barely compatible with the amount of collected taxes, as well as being correct in blaming governments for remaining lax on tax evasion and poor collection methods, which end up costing the budget hundreds of millions in uncollected tax revenue.

What is not entirely legitimate, on the other hand, are protests by those who earn high incomes, but have so far managed to escape with little or even a meager tax payment. Because the new draft law stipulates an end to this privilege, this category of tax evading high earners, quite selfishly, joined the protestors, with the sole intention of escaping their national duty to pay tax as others do. 

We need to understand that we are not a rich country, our natural resources are limited, we have a serious water shortage problem, we have mounting security challenges and we are continuously faced with rising demands.

In addition, energy prices are continuously and rapidly rising as is our energy consumption.

As the era of subsidies has ended, we need to rely upon ourselves, live within our means and get used to returning to a simpler lifestyle as King Abdullah has been urging us to be. But, and in light of the much appreciated Saudi initiative to help Jordan out of the crisis, the already agreed upon financial package, should be earmarked for helping to build a strong economic base that promotes growth rather than relax unnecessary consumer spending. We need to become a productive rather than a consuming society. We need to mobilise every possible potential and to save every penny to build a strong and a sustainable economic base that can withstand any future shocks.

Another crucial fact, despite any amount of justification to the contrary, is that, without any further delay, the government must start at its own front door to clean up its act and put its own house in order by cutting all unnecessary expenses, luxuries, allowances and privileges. High government officials should set the right example for the rest of the population. Creeping administrative corruption should instantly be eradicated as well.

The gap of trust between the government and the people has been expanding endlessly. Although not easy, the government should do its utmost to regain the confidence and trust of the people. 

Only when Jordanians start to believe that we are all equal, absolutely equal before the law, that our rights are respected and justice is completely and correctly applied to every Jordanian citizen, will they restore their abandoned confidence in their governments. 

It may sound idealistic, but every Jordanian would gladly willingly understand any austerity measures, however severe, once he is convinced that his share is equal to that of all others.

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Comments

Some should read Samir Kassir's book, 'Being Arab' - as mentioned before, 8 prime ministers in as many years, why is this (?), the author of this article goes a little way to explain this phenomenon in the headline?

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