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Respect Jordanian citizens to ensure continued loyalty

Jan 20,2018 - Last updated at Jan 20,2018

International developments and foreign policy subtleties have always required Jordan to work harder for a place at the front, either at the table or even simply in the room during particularly challenging times. 

This reality, a result of Jordan’s fluctuating geopolitical relevance to the issues taking precedence globally, has always left citizens unable to publicly express a firm stance on foreign policy issues in order to leave Jordan’s mediators a margin for negotiations. 

We became programmed to lay low, rationalise, negotiate, cover up, self-censor and almost always swallow hard and smile optimistically. We have convinced ourselves that our country’s continued stability as well as its economic and political resilience requires us to be “realistic”, “rational”, and “mature”.

But the fact that we have been trained to “understand” does not mean that experiencing the decades of subservience to the “shifting elements” has not taken its toll on our mood and generated a collective feeling of “powerlessness”. 

This experience has drastically impacted our sense of self worth, our feelings of relevance and over the decades has created a detachment from decision-making processes that some believe, and I am among those who do, has fed into a public mood and pattern of dependence, entitlement and by extension a greatly reduced level of productive engagement or creative initiative.

In parallel we missed an opportunity to create a balance and a counterenvironment in which the “citizen we want” could grow.  It could have happened had the state’s arms and institutions been engaged, directed and managed — within a prioritised national project — to build a well-educated, well-informed, empowered and self-respecting citizen. 

Sadly, the political tools of bartering, which were necessary on the foreign policy level, were also mainstreamed internally and therefore we saw the state exchange our education systems, structures of democracy, public sector benefits, employment opportunities and keys to pockets of power and privilege, in order to pay off political debts and buy support. 

We stand today at an important juncture. Either we fall even deeper into the quagmire of state-supported “corruption” — which is the only credible way to define the national bartering practices I described above — or we pull ourselves out and start our national recovery programme slowly, painfully and — at least temporarily — without any immediate personal or collective reward.

Many citizens had hoped that the government of Prime Minister Hani Mulki, armed with the clear direction articulated within His Majesty’s discussion papers, could be the catalyst for the change we are looking for. I still believe it can be if only because it is taking on many of these challenges head on. But I also believe that continuing to ignore our citizens’ voice is a mistake that could cost us our only hope to achieve the “self reliance” we crave.

Let us review only this past 10 days or so: The clearly determined government announced a sequence of increased prices and taxes the sum of which is yet to be calculated to gauge the real size of the financial burden that has been shifted onto the shoulders of the citizen; the politically vacant Parliament passed the government-proposed budget without engaging in any substantial policy discussions or demanding a parallel economic reform and citizen support policy from the government; and in an unrelated development — yet again highlighting the malaise in our government-Parliament-citizen dynamics — the eight-year old provisional Personal Status Law was suddenly “approved” by the legal committee in Parliament quickly and secretly in an unbelievable hocus-pocus act concocted with the representatives of the Sharia courts, without any credible consultation with the civil society organisations that represent the women and children whose lives it most directly impacts.

The key state authorities, the executive as represented by the government, the legislative as represented by Parliament, and the judiciary, all colluded to push their policies forward without hesitating to give citizens a space to express their grievances or provide them with an adequate social net to catch their fall. 

It is therefore not a surprise that Jordanians feel that they were conspired against and that the Jordanian citizen is neither the source of all authority nor the priority of any of our key branches of authority, but in fact the most disrespected, disregarded and marginalised voice in the country.

This, as I said earlier, came against a backdrop of the very challenging foreign policy environment that has exasperated the citizens’ feelings of weakness against the reach and demands of regional and international superpowers.  

Quick steps are now needed to begin to fix the damage, and avoid escalation of negativity and loss of hope — and put us back on track. Serious conversations must be allowed and encouraged nationally — and utilising all democratic means — in order to shift the emphasis from the narrative of citizen sacrifice for the sake of the country to identifying what the country can do to build and encourage a productive, able and proud citizen. 

By all means let us grab the opportunity of the “self reliance” mentality and approach proposed by the government, and then build on it.  As a first step, the state’s authorities must recognise that they have not been performing to the ethical, democratic and professional standards we expect from a modern state and therefore that credible reform must start there. Their first target and most basic yardstick for measuring credible state performance must be the respect they show for the Jordanian citizen.

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for the elaboration. I fully agree. But my message is about communicating with citizens and building their self-respect while implementing the financial reform package. I don't think the two issues are mutually exclusive. On the financial need to redress the deformities, I am pleased that we are not sweeping things under the carpet anymore.

IMF mandates, debt to GDP, balance of payments deficit, loans interest payments, Import / Export imbalance, put together ... have all contributed to the deformed position that left the future of the country looking nebulous. The government found itself in a critical financial as well as fiscal position that necessitated taking the path it took to generate the revenues needed to balance the budget.The decision wasn't taken whimsically, it was planned several years ago,however it took that many years to implement it --only when all other options were shut down- with the exception of self reliance,which was the only path left open. Lifting the bread subsidies and redirecting the reimbursement from the commodity to the individual directly is part of a national reformation policy to fix some of the deformities. In reference to the raising of the tax margins, the United States which is the wealthiest country on earth appraises its Tax system on an ongoing basis , it raises and reduces the tax rate on as needed basis. No one ought to act like they are in a state of awe because we all knew beforehand that it was coming the question then become rather not if but when will the implementations begins.

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