As we enter October, there is no doubt in my mind that 2007 has been an incredibly bad year for Jordan. The gap between the poor and the rich has increased to the point where you can see it as clear as day and night. The government has done little about that. Media reform is all but dead with the sad, sad demise of ATV, the first private Jordanian news channel. The government saw to that. Then of course we had a politician jailed. The government was responsible for that. Our corruption levels are up. Municipal elections were a joke that included a disposed opposition party and a government rigging the results. We’ve had several public health scares, that instead of being contained, were mishandled enormously. The GID (or mukhabarat) have never enjoyed such free exercise of authority. Inflation is on the rise. Still more honor killings; still no law.
And this is just touching the surface; barely.
I’m always astonished at the lack of coherent policy in Jordan.
It’s fairly easy to tell where parliament stands on the issues, after all, the people are responsible for electing them. The overwhelming majority are conservatives, traditionalists, and like to suck up to the government unless the latter is trying to pass anything related to reform, or a ‘changing of old ways’ that threatens their tribe’s position of power. The opposition is also conservative, traditionalist and to make things more fun, religious. Never missing an opportunity to be anti-government just for the sake of being anti-government. Ask them where they stand on the issues, ask them for alternatives, and they’ll offer you nothing but empty rhetoric.
But the state.
Now the state is a whole other different story.
On the one hand you have the King and various technocrats and reformists always pushing for some type of reform or another, and then on the other hand, you have this old guard undermining the direction of the state.
A recent example was the decision to monitor Jordanian websites (like blogs). I have no doubt in my mind that this decision was taken by the GID with the government happily obliging. It is a decision that made a few waves both online and offline, at least enough to question why the state was making such a move in light of the King who is always talking about media reform.
A few days later the King makes a speech and assures everyone that monitoring of websites will not happen.
If the King is disapproving of the policy to begin with, one has to wonder how it was approved to begin with. Either the GID is acting on its own accord in the post Amman bombing era, or the left hand of government does not know what the right hand is doing. These sort of situations usually involve someone, somewhere getting into a lot of trouble, mainly for making the King look bad, or at worse, a bit hypocritical.
But in the meantime, the people are getting mixed signals.
The relationship between national leadership and the support base is disconnected. A few weeks ago, the King gathered his cabinet members and essentially asked anyone who was not up to the task of carrying out his agenda, to resign. No one did of course.
But it is truly disconcerting to risk having that kind of message sent at a time like this. Which says to me that where there’s smoke there’s fire.
On the surface many would argue that this is all a charade being concocted to fool the people, specifically foreign donors and governments.
But those who are wiser know of this disconnect. They are aware of it.
It’s even apparent at the most fundamental level.
Let’s say for example, you have some sort of government-related procedure involving a lot of bureaucratic paperwork that needs to get done. You will be forced from department to department, from ministry to ministry. Everyone says “you’re in the wrong place, so and so is in charge of that”. But so-and-so tells you to go elsewhere.
You end up wasting an entire week due to bad directions. Eventually you find a short old guy in a dusty office, in the corner of some ministry, who is “in charge” of whatever it is you need to get done. He’ll probably give you a list of all the other places you need to visit to collect a series of signatures and stamps; philately has never been so fun.
Even on this level, it is apparent that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
From the moment the King makes a decision, it will get passed down the chain to various players. And it’s very much like a rumor that will start with one person, but by the time it gets to the last person in the chain, it’s completely different. Completely broken.
There is a breakdown in communication and one needs to only look at the way the most basic government employee operates in the most basic government-environment (such as a department or ministry), to understand the broken mechanism at play.
Would things be easier if the entire government was military? Just a bunch of soldiers following direct orders like their life depended on it, instead of aged-politicians with ancient-agendas?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that the Bakhit government has been the worse Jordanian government that I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing.
In the meantime, the people keep getting yanked around.