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Where is Michel Marto?

Jan 07,2019 - Last updated at Jan 07,2019

I met Michel Marto in the summer of 1969, when I travelled to California to visit my first university, California State Polytechnic University. I happened to pass by the University of Southern California, where I met with Safwan Touqan, the late Tayseer Abdul Jaber and Michel Marto. The three were my colleagues at the Central Bank of Jordan.

After finishing my Master’s one year later, I returned to Amman after the September 1970 events. Michel had not yet returned. Soon after, he got his PhD and went to work at the Royal Scientific Society. We continued to meet off and on until he became deputy governor of the Central Bank of Jordan.

In the late 80s, Jordan’s public debt mounted to almost $9 billion, more than 100 per cent of GDP. It was imperative that Jordan reschedule its debts, benefit from buying at huge discounts some of its debts and engage in tough negotiations with both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. Michel was deeply engaged in such negotiations, and Jordan succeeded in hush hushing the bark-howling wolves of debt.

Later, he was appointed as the chairperson of the newly established Jordan Securities Commission. He was instrumental in establishing its codes, procedures and supervisory work. In 1998, Marto began his six-year tenure as minister of finance, a job which he held under three prime ministers: Fayez Tarawneh, Abdul Raouf Rawabdeh and Ali Abul Ragheb. He was a no-nonsense public servant and a tough and cynical nay sayer to all the demands for unjustified allocations.

We had lunch the other day. In his colourful intonations, enthusiastic Arabic lexicon and Italian-like gestures, he enunciated the following:

Are they crazy to allow our public debt to jump from JD5 to JD 26.0 billion in (14) years? As long as the spending patterns of government are not streamlined, there is no hope for fiscal reform. After all these years of experience, they want us to surrender to what is called IMF-imposed reform! Not true. We choose the package and the IMF merely watches us implement what we had agreed to with them? There is so much money spent as gifts to win certain peoples’ loyalty and it goes unappreciated by many. No matter what we say, deep down, we are a rentier state and it is getting very costly. We cannot leave matters in the hands of novice leaders. We need a mix of both who are experienced and forward-looking, young promising leaders.

Marto is an entertaining as he is a straight shooter. We need ministers like him.

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