How many times have you gone shopping for groceries only to find a red-plated government car parked outside? At the cinema? At malls? In various places where you would least expect a red-plated number to be? I only have two hands, but suffice to say my personal count is, at this point, immeasurable. Obviously, this is no indication, or at least evidence, of misuse, that is of course until you see the chauffeur driving around the misses who is all dressed up to do some serious shopping. But even then, it’s just a perspective – a single angle that can be easily interpreted differently.
Which is why I found this article today so darn interesting:
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That’s a lot of fines, and for way too many reasons. One of my favorites is perhaps the refusal to adhere to a traffic policeman’s directions, especially when he’s asked them to stop. I’ve seen this one plenty of times. A red-plated car will simply speed by despite the manic gestures of the policeman who dared to wave them down in the first place. Doesn’t he know who’s driving that car? Probably not.
As for the horrendous $22.5 million from the 2010 budget allocated to the 22,000 government cars, suffice to say, horrendous is all I could think of. To make matters worse, this is actually the lowest figure in three years, at least according to the article. Great. Putting security vehicles aside – although I personally don’t know why we need policeman driving around in Audis, but that’s another story – I’m forced to wonder what accounts for all these red-plated Escalades, Suburbans, Mercedes and BMWs? Why is the government spending so much money on the latest models of high-end cars?
Get a Prius!
It’s interesting to note that government cars are perhaps the most visible government expenditure the general Jordanian public is exposed to on a daily basis. Or, to put it in another way, the appearance of such cars on the street instinctively push a citizen to wonder if it’s being misused. In other words, they are the most scrutinized on a day-to-day basis.
While to some, government cars may appear insignificant, the fact is they not only fall under public perceptions, but represent millions and millions spent from the national budget. Not only for their purchase and maintenance, but also those damn gas coupons, which allows certain people the privilege to fill their gas tanks and hand the gas station attendant a coupon before speeding off. This also applies to the diplomatic community, which has the same privilege I believe. It’s just another way of letting everyone know that we are an oil-rich country.
Well not really, but we love to act like it.
This reminds me of a few years back when the parliament approved the purchase of BMWs for its members, including ministers. At the time, only the Islamists and a few opposition voices were heard and shut down. It took an order from the King, who was not in the country when the decision was made, to have all those cars returned, thus inspiring that Mahjoob caricature posted above. Is that what it will take this time – again? Not to long ago actually, a different parliament wanted to sell their tax exemptions – one of the unfortunate perks they receive by assuming public office.
A government crackdown isn’t going to work on a broken system. The system itself – the approach taken with regards to the purchase and use of government cars – needs to be reformed completely before placing the necessary mechanisms that ensure their accountability.