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Paperless government

Jun 05,2017 - Last updated at Jun 05,2017

On May 31, His Majesty King Abdullah presided over a meeting to emphasise the urgent need for public sector reform.

It was obvious from the tone of the King that he was adamantly serious about the issue.

Jordan used to boast one of the best public administration systems.

If I were to choose three words that aptly described it once, I would choose efficiency, equity and integrity.

It has become a challenge to uphold all these attributes now.

Without going into details, all internationally acknowledged matrices and indexes measuring government performance put Jordan in the lower half among countries of the world.

This conclusion is evident if one takes a cursory look at the index issued by Transparency International on corruption or governance and the ease of doing business by the Davos Economic Forum.

Some governments take an easy approach to improving their ranking in these listings by trying to manipulate information.

It is comparable to hoping that a sick child’s temperature would go down by dipping the thermometer into a glass of cold water.

Not only Jordanians, but Arab and foreign nationals as well complain about lethargy in finalising government-related businesses and permits.

His Majesty receives many complaints from his guests about the less-than-desired efficiency and productivity of government departments.

Jordan employs about 30 per cent of the active labour force in the civil administration departments. By any measure, this is too much, especially when knowing that more than 50 per cent of these employees work in supporting services and only have a high school certificate or less.

The pressing economic situation makes the government an employer of last resort.

Many unemployed people are waiting for government jobs; some have been waiting for years.

As a matter of fact, the government is in due need for downsizing.

Many notable international consulting firms did studies on how to improve the performance of government apparatuses.

Their implementation schemes never materialised due to the resistance they met, especially from those who were supposed to implement them.

Using electronic government devices is only a small part of the overall public administration reform.

As we were taught, the end result, or output, will depend on the quality of the input.

Without upholding the three parameters of efficiency, equity and integrity, reform will be a mere pantomime act.

Reform involves some suffering, but for it to be borne, we need faultless non-sloppy conduct on the part of government leaders.



The writer is a former Royal Court chief, deputy prime minister and member of Senate. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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