It was perhaps with great pleasure that I read about government plans to exempt computers from taxes in Jordan around two months ago. Sources at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology leaked such plans in late April, and the Minister, Bassem Roussan, seemed to confirm it at a meeting with members of the ICT sector. The idea of removing the sales tax on computers was in a planned effort to make them more affordable for the average Jordanian – a good effort on the government’s part.
In the weeks that followed the announcement, sales for PCs dropped as buyers held off on making any purchases they would financially regret later. This of course meant bad business for computer vendors; very bad business.
This was followed by other officials at the ministry claiming that the tax exemption was not for sure leading to a great deal of confusion.
Two months later and suddenly the Income and Sales Tax Department issues a public statement claiming that there will be no exemption, while the ministry insists it’s still being discussed.
Disturbing confusion to say the least.
The issue has hung in the air for over 7 weeks and we are yet to see a clear indication from the government as to whether such an exemption will happen or not.
According to the local media, sales have already dropped by at least 70% as people wait on a Jordanian government that has the ability to speak with one clear voice.
If the issue needed deliberation then why leak it in the first place? Why prepare customers, buyers and sellers for something that’s not even sure?
Moreover, the government had several weeks to come out and either deny the news or affirm it. Instead, it chose to wait, throwing the entire local market in to mass confusion at a time when it’s probably the last thing the struggling-to-be-larger-than-life ICT sector needs.
The whole situation only serves to highlight this inherent policy (or lack there of) within the confines of the Jordanian government, to avoid addressing rumors, which are, under normal circumstances, and in the Jordanian context even more dangerous given the country’s size and the ability for rumors to spread and become “factualized” within a matter of hours or days.
This time last year we saw a series of rumors floating through the local media channels that caused so much confusion and protest that the King had to step in an clarify things. The sale of the Medical City was one; the involvement of a pro-Israeli company in the organization of the Jordan Festival was another.
Which brings me to my main point:
In a political system where accountability and transparency are in rare form, and citizens have almost no control over the happenings of their government, is the most one can hope for from one’s government simply their ability and willingness to learn from past mistakes?
And, if such a hope is too much, what’s left?
To your first question: No.
To the second one:Watching Parades and clapping, while talking about the new “conspiracy”.
To ur last question: Nothing. Stop banking ur hope on a crippled system that fumbles on tactics… build an alternative one and the day will come when the tracks will switch.
There is no conspiracy: ministries are not talking to each other, which are not a new advent in Jordan; and there is no overall policy framework. The troubling aspect is that the decision to approve the removal of the tax was already sanctioned by HM the King when he attended the ICT strategy in 2007 (see INT@J web site).
It is best to ignore government completely when planning for promoting the economy, a sad but a seemingly growing necessity. I agree with Nadine on this, some day the track will converge, not today obviously!
@Nadine: I have trouble the concept of building alternatives to government institutions and then expecting that they will one day simply take over. At best, it will create a parallel structure that is often times destructive if not detrimental to public sector development. And in any case, how does a citizen or a group of citizens build a government institution; what empowers them?
Fortunately, my hopes are not hinged to waiting for government to change. I think governments in general are always salvageable, but require varying degrees of renovation. I’m just not so sure building parallel entities is a way to go.
I wish we could have a national keyboard typing campaign using both hands in our schools, universities, government departments and border controls rather than the one finger typing, perhaps the computer agents and distributers could sponsor such a campaign on a national scale and increase users rather than PC’s collecting dust in many of our municipalities and rural schools….
I bet this would increase official paperwork processing efficiency by 30%!