Verbatim | What Keeps King Abdullah Up At Night

Q: If you look five years down the line, do you see yourself relinquishing some power to the parliament?

“Probably sooner. We haven’t shut any doors on relinquishing power. My mission is as quickly as possible to get Jordan to have a prime minister elected from a political party…We need to create new political parties based on programs…The Arab Spring didn’t start because of politics; it started because of economics — poverty and unemployment…What keeps me up at night is not political reform because I am clear on where we are going. What keeps me up at night is the economic situation because if people are going to get back on the streets, it is because of economic challenges, not political.”  HM King Abdullah [Washington Post]

It constantly feels that the conversation regarding the relationship between good governance and good economics is still largely missing in our national political discourse. They are deemed to be two separate things, when in reality, they are intertwined. After a decade’s worth of rapid economic shifts that have played to the benefit of the few and a burden to the majority, people have made the connection between the role politics plays in engineering a sustainable economy. King Abdullah may be right about the economic challenges being pertinent, but if one looks closely at the demands, politics is at the bleeding center of the wound. Unemployment is tied to job creation policy, is tied to investments, is tied to corruption. Low wages are tied to social inequity, the rise of elitism, the disappearance of the middle class and the public policy that made all of this possible, specifically in the past few years.

When people ask for an elected government, the primary driver is a request for a governing entity that not only offers alternative economic solutions, but allows those people to hold them accountable should they fail to deliver.

21 thoughts on “Verbatim | What Keeps King Abdullah Up At Night

  1. This idea that poverty is the driving force behind demands for change keeps us safe in our assumptions of the “other”. We don’t know much about poor people – other than to assume that all they want from life is money. We throw money in their general direction, most of which gets picked up along the way, and are surprised when it doesn’t make a difference to them. We assume that once they have money, they will become like us, and want what we want and stop being mysterious and start becoming safe and easy to understand. As long as we don’t know each other – we will constantly make assumptions about what those who are different from us want and need – and we will almost always be wrong.

  2. That last sentence (paragraph) reminds me of a tweet I read: The arabic word “wazeer” is a derivative of the word “wizr”, meaning burden. When that becomes the way things are viewed, we will be sure that we are on the right track.

    Morals and ethics are the missing ingredients. Not policies.

  3. I read that remark in a different light, like totally.

    what i think HM is trying to say, is that political reform might not be enough to solve the economic situation that we face.

    while i agree with you that it will certainly help a whole lot, the hardships that people are facing are too monumental to be solved just by that, there are many other international and regional considerations ( the UN reports that the prices of the major food commodities are continue to rise for the next 10-15 years , the price of oil, the financail situation world wide and the impact of us joining the GCC in terms of how competitive our industries would be and the job creation oppurtunities for Jordanian in the GCC) .

    and a lot of this political reform, will actually harm some segments of society , when you talk about downsizing our inflated public sector, people will lose their jobs. When you end unjustified govt grants and privilages then people pockets will be hit . I dont have numbers or anything like that but I bet you those who depend on the 50 jod wasta payment are a significant number in our society and they too would be hit when if we ever manage to reduce corruption.

    Further, for political reform to improve the economic situation, its gonna take time, from what i see in this country, a whole lot of it too. The people living in tough conditions do not have that sort of luxury .As things get tougher ,I dont see how they would remain in their homes and not hit the streets.

  4. @Nasser: You point out the crux of the situation here…this conversation isn’t supposed to be polarized. it’s not an either/or situation. it’s not either political reform or economic reform…it’s both being done in tandem. both rely on each other.

  5. @nas

    I think what he was basically saying ” I can see how politically we can appease the masses, but i am not sure if we would be able to do so economically and in the short term this is very dangerous .”

  6. This truly is my objective opinion of King Abdullah, no emotions nor stereotypes involved.

    Abdullah [edited by admin] shouldn’t have the slightest relation with public posts, not to mention run a whole frickin’ country!

  7. What keeps me up at night is not political reform because I am clear on where we are going. What keeps me up at night is the economic situation because if people are going to get back on the streets, it is because of economic challenges, not political.” – HM King Abdullah

    @nas this is the part.

  8. A popularly elected government is not necessarily going to run a successful economic policy. It depends on whether the party has a capable and determined man available to be finance minister.

    The best way to make the economy grow is to make it very easy to start a business. That means mass destruction of red tape (with all its associated bribery) and petty regulations.

  9. Don,

    But allowing for people to start new businesses pre-supposes a level playing field, and that people in the government won’t use their power to suppress new businesses because, say, their cousin is the manager of the old, crappy business, or something along those lines. I mean, I agree with you, but without dealing with the culture of nepotism and bribery, even a simplified process for starting new businesses won’t be able to deliver.

  10. ليس بالخبز وحده يعيش الإنسان
    يا أيها الملك
    It is this arrogance that all despotic leaders posse, this guy has no idea of what is really going on in Jordan or elsewhere , with all the resources that he has, he keeps messing up because when somebody is born with a golden spoon in his or her mouth it will be difficult to asses any situation and his ranting is an example of that .
    By the way is Halloween yet , I really like his costume and all the medals on his breast , I just don’t understand where did he get all those medals from and how ?

  11. Unfortunately the comments made by the “The Free Jordanian” are the precise reason why we arent reforming the way we should or need to. I am for free speech entirely but I hope we can have a meaningful discussion about what reform means to each of us…if I can tell anything from the protests of the past few months, its that it means a radically different thing to each of us. Meanwhile, youre concerned with the King’s medals…youre really missing the point. I also agree with Nasser Kalaji about what he said…couldnt agree more

  12. I think what should keep all of us up at night is rather the fact that the rule of the wealthy (Plutocracy) is wedded to Autocracy. In other words, money, blood ties and coercion are the potion of power, and thus at the ‘bleeding centre of the wound’.

  13. “Unfortunately the comments made by the “The Free Jordanian” are the precise reason why we arent reforming the way we should or need to” observer, so it is the free Jordanian that stopping the reform, wow how deep is that ya observer?

  14. “But allowing for people to start new businesses pre-supposes a level playing field, and that people in the government won’t use their power to suppress new businesses”

    That is exactly what I mean.

    Obviously a new business can be damaged by mafia threats and the like, but if the red tape is removed that takes away a major weapon that can be used to prevent growth.

    Anyone should be able to start a small business, including publishing and printing, without any kind of permission from anyone else. I am thinking mainly of plumbers, electricians, shops, designers, and similar. There is no freedom like being self-employed.

  15. “Free Jordanian”, let me clarify: youre not stopping the reform…your comments and your seeming preoccuptation with the kings medals simply dont help the debate on reform. I might disagree with some (or many) of the comments made on the article, your comment simply doesnt factor into the discussion. We need to have a meaningful debate and I really dont think you can be a part of it; I wont even read any new posts you make. Youre comments dont help.

  16. The relationship between politics and economics is much more complicated than that. I know the focus here is on Jordan but if you ask a starved family in Africa, they are more concerned about getting food than if their country is democratic or not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for democracy but the point is people are asking for political reform because of their economic situation, which may or may not be a direct result of the political system. There’s definately room for improvement when it comes to government policies in Jordan but people have to realize that successful economies aren’t a guaranteed result of a democratically elected government.
    This might be provocative to say, but, even Hitler was ‘democratically’ elected

  17. observer. You can have as much ” meaningful” debate as you want , it aint going to happen as Americans say under defunct ,bankrupt and corrupted government
    الاصلاح وما ادرك ما الاصلاح، لقد اصبحت كلمة تافه ليس لها معنى أو جوهر،وفي القريب العاجل ستصبح أغنية الموسم يرددها السذج

  18. “My mission is as quickly as possible to get Jordan to have a prime minister elected from a political party…We need to create new political parties based on programs”

    the question then becomes how does one do this in a country where mukhabarat hold so much sway

  19. I think both political and economic reform need to happen at the same time. However they ned to happen from different directions. Economic reform can only (IMHO) happen from the top down.
    Political reform should happen from the bottom up. Elections held at local levels will provide a framework for a peaceful transition of power when one party loses and another wins and takes power.

Your Two Piasters: