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When the government understands the people

Sep 23,2018 - Last updated at Sep 23,2018

I had a conversation with my eldest son this week about how we make decisions and select among available choices. We talked about how we consider what we want, what is beneficial to us and then weigh those purely selfish considerations against how our decision would be perceived by those we love. The last step would be the one that would sensitise us to the wants of our family and friends and measure the impact our decisions will have on them so that this element is also considered as we make final choices. If we do eventually decide to go with our wants and self-benefitting choice, despite its less than positive impact on our loved ones, then we must communicate our final decision with precision, justification and, therefore, sensitivity and compassion.

My son is a teenager. Emotional intelligence and responsible communication for teenagers is a work in progress at best. But it occurred to me as I sat to write this column that after reading through large excerpts of the interview with Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Jordan Television two days ago, that his government’s single most notable achievement at the 100 day mark is the maturing, firstly, of its emotional intelligence
vis-a-vis its understanding of and responding to Jordanians’ priorities and, secondly, in responsibly communicating and articulating those priorities back to the people as being also the government’s priorities. 

The new-found and rare point of harmony between the narratives of the government and the people in that interview may yet signal the beginning of walking down the road towards a credible vision and action plan for reform in order to rebuild the trust and mend the disconnect between the government and the people. In Arabic, there is the word “tanaghum” which dictionaries translate into “harmony”. In Arabic, however, it has the deeper connotation of the coming together, almost in a dance, towards each other to achieve harmony. 

The dance can be angry, frustrated, loud and demanding rising into an ear-piercing crescendo of moves and perhaps even noises but at its best and at specific intervals, it also meets in a harmonious coming together. I wish I had found the word in English that would summarise that process. It would have accurately portrayed the state I am describing of this point where the government’s most senior executive used the language of the people to express his government’s vision.

It took 100 days of dialogue, exchange of ideas, pushing and push back, accusations and counter accusations for the government to realise that its economic agenda must marry a political agenda to give voice and credible political forums and pathways for the youth primarily, but also for the different population groups equally. And yes we accept that it would be introduced within the confines of responsible yet determined laws for elections and political parties, but equally the rule of law must govern the behaviour of both citizen and government institutions to the same measure.

It took those 100 days for the government to realise that the tax law must also pave the road for a social and economic tax framework that recognises the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalised, close all roads to corruption and tax evasion and encourage investment and increased economic participation. I believe also that an understanding is forming that incentives provided to certain sectors of the economy to invite larger investments must be introduced fairly and monitored closely so as not to become loopholes for the rich to safeguard their large margins of profit. The government, I believe, also recognised that the law must also stand up for the sovereignty and safeguard the integrity of the Jordanian state and nation, while meeting international requirements and responsibility. This is a message that the International Monetary Fund, which also needs to validate its claim to be invested in safeguarding the economic and financial interests of its developing countries, must heed and consider as it negotiates with the government on next steps. 

To my own personal standards, the law must also adopt fully the demands of the women’s movement to provide tax incentives that will support increased women’s economic participation, but even more importantly the government must remove clear articles of bias against women, and especially in ensuring tax incentives to women who provide for their families financially and who, under the current law and its proposed amendments, are burdened with responsibility of proof when no such provision is demanded for male heads of families.

Most importantly in my opinion, the government vocalised the peoples’ demands for creating a link with increased taxes with better services from the government. It is easy to label the people as ignorant and in need of “iron” control to achieve progress, and there are many credible arguments to support that approach and philosophy in developing countries that seeks quick recovery or growth, but I am also proud of the Jordanians’ clear understanding of what they can and must expect if the government is to turn to them to bail it out of its financial troubles. 

When the government rolls out its plan in the next few weeks, as Razzaz promised, let us have delivery dates for when services and facilitations for increased economic activity can be expected. In the transport sector, let us know exactly when can we expect the fast bus service will begin operations. The date. And while we are pleased that a number of buses have been introduced into the capital to ease demand on existing lines, exactly how and when will there be a mega project, through perhaps a private-public partnership, to resolve the problem of transportation across the Kingdom. The Bashir Public Hospital’s management announced its plans for expansion and better service delivery. Let us have the dates and funding mechanisms. Improvements in education have been noted as per the premier’s review during the interview, but what are the next steps and when can we expect them. In trade and industry, what has been laid out to encourage investment and increase economic activity among not only the influential mobilisers of the economy, but also to draw in more small businesses. What is the timeline and how can we measure it? In higher education where can we see the change, and more importantly what is the change that the government commits to achieving? The list is long but I think that premier, in his interview, has shown that his narrative mimics that of the people, now that narrative needs to be translated into action.

On the flip side, it took 100 days for the Jordanian people to absorb and digest the bitter pill, rise in anger and perhaps also see a glimmer of hope. This assessment in no way implies a prediction of reduced political tension, or lessoning pressure on the government to deliver nor does it expect that the youth will back off or that the daily monitoring of the government’s performance will become less stringent. I do not think we have turned a corner yet. I actually expect that the pressure will continue and at times will peak into threatening heights. It will be up to the government to understand, deconstruct the messages, look into action plans that will help it manage those peaks through delivery and performance. 

I chose not to listen to recording of the interview with the premier but read the content. I wanted to bypass the personal charisma of the premier himself, which as we all know, had helped him rise to the ranks of premier with popular support at the most critical of times. It was important to hear the messages and measure them against those that came from the street as a yardstick of whether the government is listening to the people or not. 

The government had made mistakes when it formed without responding to the people’s expectations; it again made a mistake when it proposed a strategy that missed the parallel importance of both political and economic reform and did not focus on the aspirations of the youth. 

During the interview with the premier, there were clear indications that the government had listened to Jordanians and understood what they expect and that in itself must be recorded in its favour and seen as a promising sign. 

Now we will await the action plan in the hope that it mirrors that understanding and responds to it in concrete and measurable steps.

 

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Comments

Great article. Well said. The road is very long and rough ahead.
Many issues need to restart from A than tackling the moment.

AS USUAL, YOUR ARTICLES ALWAYS CIRCLES AROUND THE NATIONAL ISSUES AND HOW TO MOVE THE COUNTRY RIGHT TO THE MIDDLE OF A MORDERN WORLD AND ALL JORDANIANS SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOU. PERHARPS, IT MAY TAKE SOME TIME THAN USUAL BEFORE ANY GOVERNMENT FORMED OR DISOLVED TO BUY INTO YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A BETTER JORDAN BECAUSE AMONG ALL THINGS, YOU ARE A WOMEN THAT IS MENT TO BE SEEN AND NOT TO BE HEARD OF. YOUR SALVO THIS TIME CAN NOT BE MORE ACCURATE AND POINTED.
1) EVERY JORDANIAN KNOWS THAT THEY ARE BEING FORCED TO TAKE BITTER PILLS
2) REJECT THE NULL HYPOTHESIS AND ACCEPT THE ALTERNATIVE ONE IRRESPECTIVE OF THE PRESSURES.
3) FRUSTRATION OF THE CITIZENS THAT ARE BEING MANIPULATED AND GAGED TO TAKE THE BITTER PILLS
4) LACK OF A COHERENT VISION OF THE GEO-POLITICAL EQUATIONS
5) AND MIS-DIRECTIONS OF THE PRIORITIES WHILE DOUBLING DOWN ON THE STATUS QUO.
I AM GLAD TO STATE THAT YOU ARE NOT A PROPHET OF DOOM BUT A TRUE AND HONEST CITIZEN WHO PUT YOUR COUNTRY FIRST BECAUSE SUCCESS BENEFITS ALL AND THE OPPOSITE COULD BE UNDESIRABLE FOR ALL. HOWEVER, I DO NOT SEE ANY LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL BECAUSE IN ANY SITUATION OF THIS MAGNITUDE, ONE MUST DEPROGRAME BEFORE REPROGRAMING. BEFORE THE GAP BETWEEN THE EXPECTED AND THE OBSERVED STANDARD CAN NARROW, THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE MUST FIRST BE HEARD. YOU CAN ONLY FORCE A HORSE TO GO TO THE WATER BUT NOT FORCE THEM TO DRINK. THERE ARE LOTS OF DICHOTOMOUS ISSUES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED FIRST BEFORE YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANY MOVEMENT TOWARDS THE INTENDED GOALS NAMELY AS FOLLOWS:
1) TO GET MOST IF NOT ALL JORDANIANS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE NATION BUILDIN
2) WHICH IMPLIES THAT ALL JORDANIANS MUST BE CREATED EQUAL, DESERVED TO BE HEARD AND LISTINED TO.
3) WHICH FUTHER IMPLIES THAT WASTA IS GONE, RECYCLED GOVERNMENT IS NO MORE AND NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO NOTHING
4) THAT JORDAN SHOULD BE JORDAN WHERE ALL POLICIES SHALL BE LOCAL AND NOT IMPORTED. GETTING BETTER NOW!
5) FINALLY THAT THE POLITICS OF PANTS CAN NOW BEGIN TO CHANGED TO PANTS AND SKIRTS
6) WHICH CAN HARVEST THE QUALITY BRAINS OF ALL CITIZENS WITH OUT GENDER STRATIFICATIONS AT ALL LEVELS.
IN SUMMARY, IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE LATE THAT THE LATE.

AS USUAL, YOUR ARTICLES ALWAYS CIRCLES AROUND THE NATIONAL ISSUES AND HOW TO MOVE THE COUNTRY RIGHT TO THE MIDDLE OF A MORDERN WORLD AND ALL JORDANIANS SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOU. PERHARPS, IT MAY TAKE SOME TIME THAN USUAL BEFORE ANY GOVERNMENT FORMED OR DISOLVED TO BUY INTO YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A BETTER JORDAN BECAUSE AMONG ALL THINGS, YOU ARE A WOMEN THAT IS MENT TO BE SEEN AND NOT TO BE HEARD OF. YOUR SALVO THIS TIME CAN NOT BE MORE ACCURATE AND POINTED.
1) EVERY JORDANIAN KNOWS THAT THEY ARE BEING FORCED TO TAKE BITTER PILLS
2) REJECT THE NULL HYPOTHESIS AND ACCEPT THE ALTERNATIVE ONE IRRESPECTIVE OF THE PRESSURES.
3) FRUSTRATION OF THE CITIZENS THAT ARE BEING MANIPULATED AND GAGED TO TAKE THE BITTER PILLS
4) LACK OF A COHERENT VISION OF THE GEO-POLITICAL EQUATIONS
5) AND MIS-DIRECTIONS OF THE PRIORITIES WHILE DOUBLING DOWN ON THE STATUS QUO.
I AM GLAD TO STATE THAT YOU ARE NOT A PROPHET OF DOOM BUT A TRUE AND HONEST CITIZEN WHO PUT YOUR COUNTRY FIRST BECAUSE SUCCESS BENEFITS ALL AND THE OPPOSITE COULD BE UNDESIRABLE FOR ALL. HOWEVER, I DO NOT SEE ANY LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL BECAUSE IN ANY SITUATION OF THIS MAGNITUDE, ONE MUST DEPROGRAME BEFORE REPROGRAMING. BEFORE THE GAP BETWEEN THE EXPECTED AND THE OBSERVED STANDARD CAN NARROW, THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE MUST FIRST BE HEARD. YOU CAN ONLY FORCE A HORSE TO GO TO THE WATER BUT NOT FORCE THEM TO DRINK. THERE ARE LOTS OF DICHOTOMOUS ISSUES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED FIRST BEFORE YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANY MOVEMENT TOWARDS THE INTENDED GOALS NAMELY AS FOLLOWS:
1) TO GET MOST IF NOT ALL JORDANIANS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE NATION BUILDIN
2) WHICH IMPLIES THAT ALL JORDANIANS MUST BE CREATED EQUAL, DESERVED TO BE HEARD AND LISTINED TO.
3) WHICH FUTHER IMPLIES THAT WASTA IS GONE, RECYCLED GOVERNMENT IS NO MORE AND NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO NOTHING
4) THAT JORDAN SHOULD BE JORDAN WHERE ALL POLICIES SHALL BE LOCAL AND NOT IMPORTED. GETTING BETTER NOW!
5) FINALLY THAT THE POLITICS OF PANTS CAN NOW BEGIN TO CHANGED TO PANTS AND SKIRTS
6) WHICH CAN HARVEST THE QUALITY BRAINS OF ALL CITIZENS WITH OUT GENDER STRATIFICATIONS AT ALL LEVELS.
IN SUMMARY, IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE LATE THAT THE LATE.

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