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The need to fix politics

Nov 19,2018 - Last updated at Nov 19,2018

Long-time observers of Jordan notice that while the country is successful in conducting its foreign policy, it has yet to match that success in domestic politics. That Jordan has managed to survive in a volatile regional environment is a major feat. Last week, His Majesty King Abdullah won the Templeton Prize in a huge ceremony in Washington, DC. The decision to grant the King this prestigious international prize is an acknowledgement of Jordan’s sound foreign policy under the leadership of the King.

Unfortunately, successive governments have not lived up to the expectations of the people. Their failure to chalk up key achievements is well documented. More telling, when it comes to the people, is the fact that the current government is unlikely to perform differently. This is a situation fraught with danger for the current government, as the trust gap between people and the government is alarmingly widening.

When Omar Razzaz was appointed as a prime minister, many Jordanians thought that this man would make a huge difference. The support he enjoyed at the beginning should have helped him to think outside the box. He did not though! Therefore, he was criticised for the formation of the Cabinet. Even when he did a Cabinet reshuffle, he failed to take into account what should be done. He maintained the same formula by appeasing some geographical districts at the expense of merits. It sounds like the Orwellian concept of some Jordanians are more equal than others depicts accurately the thinking of Razzaz when he formed the government, and again when he reshuffled the Cabinet.

There is little sign that Razzaz has grown more enthusiastic about meeting the demands of the people. His insistence on the income tax law has blinded his government to see the consequences of the law on the lives of Jordanians. Thus far, he has only paid lip service to the economic hardships that have plagued the country. I am not sure that this government has a clear roadmap to tackle the three pressing issues that interest Jordanians. Here, I am talking about unemployment, poverty and inflation.

Let us get to the bottom of the issue. Razzaz’s soft-spoken style and the fact that he is a decent man is no replacement for sound policy. In fact, Jordanians are looking for a government that reflects their priorities. Not surprisingly, this government has a different agenda. It gives in to the recipe of the International Monetary Fund as all of measures taken are in line with this recipe.

Now, after passing the most controversial income tax law, many would ask whether the government will survive the next few months. In other words, many may ask what is left for the government to do. Let us be frank, the deep state in Jordan has helped Razzaz hold onto power despite his initial flops. But there is a limit of what the deep state can do if the government continues with this modest performance. It is not as if it will be hard to fix the situation. But for that to happen, we need to have a paradigm shift in politics and a great deal of soul searching!

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