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Managing a crisis constructively

Nov 03,2018 - Last updated at Nov 03,2018

Managing the aftermath of the tragic incident of October 25 near the Dead Sea points to a few strengths and some structural weaknesses. The strengths were demonstrated in the immediate post-catastrophe response of citizens, civil defence and military. Public sympathy with the victims and their families was exemplary, from His Majesty King Abdullah to ordinary citizens. All were touched and very supportive. 

The weaknesses we have seen before, during and after the tragedy should not go without proper, just and fair accountability. The political and ethical responsibilities must be acknowledged to set the tone for those who are going to carry the torch. Having said that, and despite full acknowledgment of political, ethical, operational and administrative responsibilities, we have to be mindful of the usefulness of the much talked about purge. Some voices are very vocal about a political and administrative purge as if it is going to solve the chronic problems of structural administrative weaknesses. Correcting mistakes of the past two decades in public administration requires deep reform, not ineffective and reactive resignations. Although the latter might be needed for political reasons, we should be prepared to look beyond resignations.

Hence, responsibility must be defined clearly from the top to the bottom of political and administrative hierarchies. Who appoints incompetent people in positions of power that affect people’s lives, whether political or bureaucratic appointees? What is the political and ethical responsibility of those people that is linked to their mandate? Is it enough to sack a midlevel manager for incompetence? And can we go for a criminal indictment of a politician and or a civil servant in relation to this tragedy or other?

Leaving the political side of things aside for now, operationally speaking, neither the resignation of the minister of education nor that of the minister of tourism, for example, are going to solve the extensive problems and inefficiency of the Education Ministry or the unmanaged canyons which are supposed to be overseen by the Tourism Ministry. On the contrary, the canyons’ problem might get worse if outgoing tourism minister Lina Annab’s successor does not know more about this particular strand of tourism. Her role has been extremely vital in resolving the problems associated with the trending adventure tourism in Jordan. She knows the tourism sector very well and knows the adventure, ecological and other experiential subsectors even better. Her resignation is a compounded loss for the sector and particularly for these subsectors. She is one of the very few people in the country who did all types of experiential tourism out of passion and commitment. It does show in her actions and when she speaks.

Her resignation is highly regarded by people who praised her step. Equally, it is regretted by others who have seen her positive contribution to the sector. Outgoing education minister Azmi Mahafzah has been on the job for a few weeks. While one can understand the political reasoning, it remains hard to find an operational justification of his resignation. The responsibility is a collective one for the council of ministers who could have sent a more serious message had they formed an independent fact-finding commission, rather than a cabinet committee of the concerned ministers. Had they done so, they could have saved His Majesty King Abdullah’s intervention to form a new independent commission with members from the victims’ families.


The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions

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