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Weaning vs. negotiation

Jun 10,2019 - Last updated at Jun 10,2019

Arab societies at large, and Jordan is no exception, face the challenge of managing the transition from rentier societies to productive ones. The recent government programme of renaissance 2019-2025 takes this task very seriously and considers it one of its most cherished objectives.

There is no disagreement among sociologists, economists or political scientists that the cost of rentier societies is too high to be sustained, and that societies which fail to graduate out of it face dire consequences. This is now an established fact a priori and a posteriori. The question is how to do that transition.

Politicians and decision makers in the Arab world are going about it in the same manner and procedure as of toddler weaning. When a breast-fed child approaches two years of age, a gradual process of denying it breast suckling begins. The reaction of a tot is to cry, shout, beseech and bite his feeder whenever it gets the opportunity.

Children are great negotiators and one can learn a lot of them; they ask, rationalise their ridiculous demands, beg, shout, scream, stomp the ground, break things, then they beg and never let go until they run their parent’s patience out and win a positive response. To add insult to injury, they laugh out-loud when their parents start begging them to quiet down and beam with victorious body postures.

Societies which go through transition should not be treated like children. At the end of a series of stressing reactions, they eventually win most of their demands. The weaning approach most commonly used in the Arab world ends up with a defunct application of transition at a cost higher than expected.

We need to use adult-to-adult engaging negotiation process, where we allow facts and information to govern the milieu.

We also declare our plan, explain its advantages and requirements and allow the flow of a ping pong conversation to take full effect. Let the government lose some points and win more. Let people feel at ease that their opinions make a difference.

We need a good breed of street-smart politicians who eschew bellicose postures and submit their convictions with elegance and effective language. Timid, brooding and muted politicians cannot win the day.

In Jordan, we have developed more than a blueprint for development and change. Most of them proved to be mere willow flowers that can be swiftly blown into thin air. Not because they lacked substance, but because they treated the process like weaning and turned up their noses at the people.

We need seasoned honest and people-driven politicians who convince the people that they have a project, and that the project is not only doable but will also be done.

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