Jordanian Ex-Politicians Issue A Critical Controversial Statement Of Dissent

I’ve probably never seen a subject matter kept so hush-hush in Jordan as this controversial statement that was very recently released. No one is reporting about it. No one is writing about it. Many are talking about it. Because of course, many have access to Al-Jazeera, which seems to be the only one saying anything about it. The “statement” is written and signed by a group of ex-politicians, including a past prime minister and head of the GID, Ahmad Obeidat, and essentially it strongly criticizes the government for its liberal economic policies, the way it is being managed, and more specifically, the forever-controversial topic of land sales.

On Al-Jazeera it is being framed as a battle between the old and new guard, and even the advocates and defenders that come on TV to argue for and against the statement are part of those two categories. Had this statement been drawn up by anyone else (and it’s not the first time something like this has emerged) it may not have been so effective, but it appears the high-level political signatories, including ex-ministers and well-established politicians (and probably the fact that they met to discuss and draw up this article) are the main problem.

I have not read the statement but based on what I know of it thus far there are a few things to note here:

First, as usual, it does not offer any solutions and only criticisms. However, the topics it covers such as land sales, rising prices, the gap between rich and poor, et cetera, seem to address the major concerns of the average Jordanian.

Second, the statement appears to label privatization as part of some American agenda, and heavily criticizes the selling of public institutions lately that may (or may not) include the medical city.

Third, the statement personifies the growing gap of discontent between the old and new guard, whereby ex-politicians, many of whom follow conservative economic and political policies, are officially marginalized and have resorted to high-level criticisms; a break with tradition that used to unofficially suggest that those who are no longer in power cannot target those that are.

To emphasize the second point. Land sales. It seems to be the focus of this statement, and the muse for it.

I haven’t really talked about this issue before, but I think that I, along with most people, do have certain criticisms regarding the selling of public and national assets. The old guard seems surprised that these institutions, like Jordan Telecom, are now making money and even suggest that had they been kept by the government we could have been making money as well. This is a bit illogical as privatization has always seen public institutions doing a lot better in the hands of the private sector both financially and service-wise. Meanwhile, the new guard seems bent on selling just about anything, even at prices I feel may be unreasonable. In my opinion there have always been ways of bringing in the private sector (share or contract-wise) to manage certain public institutions for a set period of time (perhaps a decade) without having to resort to selling those national assets and all the while benefiting (mutually) from the upgraded services they provide. This has been an economic experience seen world wide.

Nevertheless, the way in which these deals go down is what gets everyone talking. There is no public debate. There are no discussions. They seem to come flying in out of blue. There are denials. More denials. Then more denials. Followed by the obvious and inevitable sale. There is absolutely no transparency in the process. No one even knows who the stakeholders are.

As for everything else. Yes, current economic policies need to be adjusted as not all are working for the short or long term benefit of the average Jordanian; and when I say the average Jordanian I mean the majority of the population, which just happens to have gotten poorer. Inflation. Subsidies.

And there are no alternatives. For instance, in the face of rising gas prices, you would typically see people utilizing public transportation more, but in Jordan that infrastructure is missing so people take the hit.

In any case, when it comes to economic policies of this magnitude, you cannot have a small group of people conducting their way through it. Others need to be brought to the table, especially the voices of dissent. If everyone gets out of this “old guard” and “new guard” shell, and acknowledges the fact that we all want what is best for the country and its people, policies could be more comprehensive and less burdensome on the average Jo.

That’s my two piasters.

 UPDATE: You can read the list of signatories on Ammon

14 thoughts on “Jordanian Ex-Politicians Issue A Critical Controversial Statement Of Dissent

  1. well, if Jordan is really not better off than it was a decade or two ago, then the “the old guard” has no position to attack and discredit. I would say give the new blood a chance. Usually, economic plans take time to see their effects In regard to privatization, I agree that those institutions are more efficient in the hands of the private sector, I also encourage the issuance of permits to provide similar services, such as mobile services, education, health,… since it creates competition, which is always good for the consumer.

  2. One of the aspects that I think make these recent decisions to sell land very unfair is the fact that in some cases the land is one that had been seized by the government or the GAM before to build projects that are beneficial to the public. But what the government and the GAM seem to have done in more than one case now, is not just sit on the land, and then sell it after the price has risen a lot.

    I think the law should say that if the land that had been seized from citizens just sits around, and then ten years later gets sold at a higher price, then it only makes sense that all the profit go to the original owners.

  3. Hey,

    I believe the war between the old and the new guard is a dispute over who can get the best piece of the cake, the old guard who want to keep their benefits they had for years and now expected to lose and lost by the new policies the new team exporting. Policies copied to implement them in Jordan with out any form of real study to what Jordan need but simply virtually instilled to fake the country of peace and tolerance in the middleast role that we should not be after anyway.

    Anyway, the free market and open economy is not a destiny we have no option but having and privatization is not a magical solution that increases profit, productivity and efficiency. Prosperity promised through privatization as Liberals and pro-capitalism claims proved to be false and invalid, especially in Jordan case where natural resources are limited.

    The problems we face were and still originating from:
    – our lack of sovereignty on our land,
    – the absence of the constitutional and systematic infrastructure of a state (immaturity in handling the basic concept of state and the three systems by both the regime and citizens)
    – Corruption on all levels and every possible way.

    All these factors leads people in charge to take decisions, state laws, imprison ppl, deiced on adjusted economical policies not for the best of our nation but due to either international pressures; to please U.S and at the same time sink more into more dependncy on those forces and source of money.

    also the decisions are made to solve an issue at a time, one institution is performing badly or having issues that must be erased, they sell it; or jail one out there in a fancy villa, there is not institutional vision or process, in short 7aret kol meen edoo elo.

    and finally of course, everyone else is making the best of what comes to their hands, get involved in a dirty deal for some benefits, direct cash or a managerial post in some big ranked solution.

    with the liberal style we are having those killing factors have worse affects because they are steered to the benefit of few, whom living under the illusion that Jordanians accepts to be used for the big companies to make money only few benefit from and moreover accept the bad service they offer.

    whats remarkable in jordan that the more liberal organizations go the worse their services are, yes, they put on nicer designs, establish customer service centers and have their annual company dinner at some fancy hotel, with power point presentations and entertainment but how are their services doing? was the change and the prices ppl pay is worth the little improvement in service?

    are we doing better than 10 years ago?

  4. According to a daily newspapers, the privatization revenue fund is absolutely cashed out…nothing.
    The “privatization” and other major sales revenue was allegedly used to pay off for the Paris club debts and other debts..

    Now…
    Given the fact that we have not seen any receipts from the Paris Club or any other creditors…
    And the comical level of credibility t Jordanian official statements have…
    Would it be really a huge surprise if we wake up tomorrow to find out that all those revenues were actually stacked in the same Swiss bank accounts to which the infamous Kuwaiti oil donation went to…?

    And then a few years down the road when we look back at the kleptocratic regime,
    Can we really say that we did not see that coming??!!

  5. Hmm… this is very interesting! Thanks for this post, Nas. I hope that the statement will eventually be released. It’s very interesting that Obeidat et al associate the privatization agenda with the United States. The U.S. has certainly been involved in advancing this agenda, but here is something to remember: plenty of countries have had the ability to tell the US/World Bank/IMF to go climb a tree. The countries that don’t/can’t reject the neoliberal agenda usually fall into one of two categories:

    1. They absolutely need the financial aid offered by these entities, so they’ll take it even if conditions are attached.

    2. There is some group within the country that would benefit from economic reforms, and this group has been able to advance its agenda.

    Which category do you think Jordan falls into?

    I don’t really see a clear group of stakeholders that would benefit from privatization, and Jordan’s budget does seem to need the financial support of donors, particularly with salary increases that have occurred recently. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind who buys a lot of these privatized companies: a lot of times it seems to be the Social Security Corporation or down in Aqaba the ADC…. is this really “privatization?” It’s also worth noting that Jordan, because of its strategic value to the US, has in the past been able to push aside or even directly violate its commitments to the IMF, which makes me think that donor-imposed conditionality is not solely driving any reforms that are being undertaken.

    Also, on Musa’s comment: privatization revenues have been used to pay down debts, but they have also been used for ad hoc welfare projects.

  6. Laila – the term you are looking for is NEOliberalism, not liberalism as both are very different (if not outright antagonistic) concepts.

    Liberalism, which you incorrectly stated was the current drive behind today’s policies, is in fact universally equated with the left of centre, so it is neither capitalist nor consumerist. In fact, liberalism endorses high government spending on citizen services, such as health and education, while maintaining that this is only possible through a reduction of spending elsewhere – in areas such as benefits for people in public office as well the government and military.

    As far as I am aware, the only Jordanian PM who ever intended to pursue such a process of restructuring the way we spend was al-Kabariti, but his policies were never given a chance. It is true that we are not rich in natural resources, as our government is always quick to remind us, but it’s not just about how much you have, it’s also about how you spend what you DO have.

    I am sorry if I seem a little harsh; its just that I find it very frustrating when people hijack the term ‘liberalism’ for their anti-capitalist rants, especially when the two are not interrelated.

  7. Hey Deena,

    No actually i am thrilled you replied. I apologize; using the right term was not my focus when i wrote the reply, mainly because i am not used to discuss this issue with people aware of the difference to begin with, which obviously a very wrong approach 🙂

    Of course i am aware of Social liberals and their belief that governments must take an active role in promoting the freedom of citizens and that this real freedom can only exist when citizens are healthy, educated, and free from dire poverty and i like how this greatly intersect with scientific socialism with the difference on government role limit of course.

    Yet you can’t really deny the relation between Liberals/liberalism and capitalism, and especially anti-capitalism rants, because the whole Liberal/social liberal and NEOLiberal propaganda and calls come hand by hand against the socialism/communism camp on both theory and practice. Beside Liberals themselves (or who claim to be)are not all aware of the difference and are not well educated to show the difference, they simply launch an attack over the left, earning as a result the seat to the right rather the left of centre.

    This also has to do with the fact that the collective calls and policies implemented in Jordan are obviously connected to what happens internationally politically and economically supporting the anti-capitalism first enemy U.S. also, till the moment Liberals in Jordan didn’t stand out as a separate political stream with clear support to individual freedom yet with the government also doing its expected role. the other way around, Liberals are grouped with out any distinctive marks as the regime supporters and extreme right wing on both Jordan internal and international policies (like the liberal youth don’t take an aggressive stand against policies related to people wages and prices increase as they would against social related freedom issues), which why i guess is the reason behind using Liberalism instead of NEOLiberalism.

    Anyway, i believe we have more to agree on than disagree.

    Have a nice day 🙂 and thanks for the reply

  8. Laila – Thank you for taking the time to clarify 🙂 I agree, we have more to agree on than to disagree, and I defiantly agree that liberals in Jordan are advancing individual human rights while ignoring the more communal aspects of justice, such as poverty and price hikes and the minimum wage you mentioned! thanks again and have a good day yourself 🙂

  9. neo-liberalism, liberalism, capitalists, tomatos, potatos, …whatever….in Jordan we dont have politicians, we have puppets for rent, they are ready to sell for the highest bidder, its really not as sophisticated as that document seems to imply, its as simple as a hard cash deal. This is my humble opinion, there are no policies in Jordan, there is no calculated program for reform, what we have is a simple cash rush due to the current circumstances (iraqis) which is already wearing off (check out the land department’s figures from q1 2007 vs q1 2008) . Now the question is who thinks that a copy-cat approach(ala dubai) to real estate development in Jordan will pan out to produce the same results? When a scientist conducts an experiment he changes one variable and keeps everything else constant, so the formula in Dubai includes a staggeringly high liquidity ( multiples of hundreds of billions) in addition to a large foreign investment influx, and 140 dollar grease barrels. In Jordan we have better weather, but thats about it, not much more to run with, i doubt our potato/tomato/neo-liberal friends are not aware of this so all they are doing is making a run for the money while it lasts and everyone from the average joe to the creme of the creme will take their loot when and if they get a chance, of course it looks like 99.9% of Jordan is missing out on this gold rush..

  10. Markus – Thanks for saying what I could not put into words man! I had to check which blog I was reading after being done with Deena and Layla’s debate! It seemed like they were discussing the political streams in America!!

    Since you got the Liberals sorted out would anyone please tell me what a conservative Jordanian politician thinks like?!

  11. Oddly enough, in the academic literature on Jordan that originates in the US and Europe, the “conservative” Jordanian politicians are those who want the extant institutions that serve a predominantly East Bank elite to remain in place– a large military, a large civil service based on patronage appointments, and no economic reform. Quite the opposite of our American “conservatives!”

Your Two Piasters: