It seems that Parliament has not made many friends since the start of this extraordinary session. First, their dispute with the media, originating from a proposed 5% tax on media revenue (dubbed the culture tax) escalated to the point of a local media strike and refusal to report on parliamentarian news. That conflict seems to have been resolved now.
Then there’s the sales tax on pharmaceutical products, which has created a new dispute between parliament and pharmacists. Some place, some where, Abdul Ra’ouf Al Rawabdeh must be going through an identity crisis.
So how have pharmacists reacted to the sales tax? Well, if you walk in to most pharmacies today, at least in Amman, the cashier will probably ask you to sign a petition. Their goal is to reach an ambitious one million signatories.
Now that’s all fine with me, because in essence, I do agree with the Jordan Pharmacists Association that medicine should not be considered a luxury good that needs to be taxed to death (literally and metaphorically) – in other words, it should be affordable to everyone – however, the association seems keen on implementing a shutdown on July 19th if the law isn’t scrapped by then.
When local media decided to stop reporting in protest of the culture tax, I was fine with it. Sure, it may not be the best idea to turn a blind eye to the happenings under the dome – the only eye of accountability the public has with regards to what happens in parliament – but at the end of the day, a lack of reporting isn’t going to kill any one.
On the other hand, shutting down pharmacies all over the Kingdom, even for a few hours, puts the public in a great deal of danger.
I understand, if not empathize with these associations, be they media or pharmaceutical, when it comes to their qualms with parliament, but holding strikes and shutdowns just to spite parliament can definitely be harmful.
In the middle of these institutional battles lies the public – held hostage every time there is a dispute. If local papers have a problem with parliament (or a few parliamentarians specifically) then the public doesn’t get their news. If pharmacies don’t welcome a new tax, the public gets refused medicine.
Associations need to find a better way to settle these disputes with parliament as I’m sure there will be many to come in the near future. In the meantime, they really need to stop holding the rest of us hostage. There’s a segment of society that has difficulty affording medicine as it is now – having higher prices isn’t going to help (oh well-to-do parliamentarians) and being refused medicine won’t be helpful either (oh well-to-do pharmacies)