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Where is new social contract in the manifesto of government's priorities?

Nov 21,2018 - Last updated at Nov 21,2018

It is there, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz would say. In the document setting his government's priorities for 2019-2020, every item has to do, one way or another, with a social contract. A state of law, production and solidarity are the key slogans in the document. 

The details, including a modified version of the military service, are all talking about the relationship between the state and citizens, rights and obligations, law enforcement, better-quality services, active citizenship, whatever that means, thousands of new jobs, expanded scope of social protection, improved performance of the civil administration; you name it. 

But there is no direct mentioning of a social contract, although the priorities manifesto says that the Letter of Designation is the major source of these guidelines, and His Majesty King Abdullah was clear when he directed the government to delineate "the relationship between citizens and the state through a clear social contract that identifies rights and duties".

Presenting his government's policy statement, seeking the Lower House's confidence in July, Razzaz vowed to establish a new "social contract" that shapes and defines the relationship between citizens and their government. 

 Razzaz and his team have stopped talking about a new social contract for a while, maybe hoping that people would forget, or on second thought, because they found that the time is not ripe for changing the existing social contract.

Whether they seek a separate document or any other form of commitment by the government to new and just rules to govern the state-citizens relationship, people want justice, equality, equal opportunity, jobs and respect of basic civil rights.

As the new tax law is about to be endorsed, Jordan is expected to make a major leap from a rentier state into productivity and self-reliance. The government has, subsequently, to answer to tax payers, who need to be assured that the money they pay is used in the right place, not, for example, to appease certain parties and individuals, to buy their loyalty. 

Citizens have the right to seek services from public agencies without the need to look for wasta (favouritism) when they show up at any government office to make sure that they are respected and well served.

They need to be assured, through the new social contract, that no government job is off-limit to them or their children because of any consideration and that meritocracy is the one and only criterion of appointment. The term "loyalty" is an absurd concept unless it strictly means good citizenship, abidance by the law and doing what we have to do.  

They want to see as a reality that the law is applied to all indiscriminately and that no individual or group is above the law. They need to know that their rights are protected through an effective judiciary and that they do not need to seek a tribal sheikh or the neighbourhood's thug to secure their rights because they do not trust the efficiency of the justice system. 

Once upon a Tweet, Razzaz advised a young man called Qutaiba not to emigrate because things would be fine. Let us ensure that the boy and his generation stay in the country, driven by hope and confidence that tomorrow is a better day.


The writer is the deputy chief editor of The Jordan Times

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