PROTESTS against the proposed tax bill and increase in fuel prices, which Jordan has been witnessing in the past few days, should not be gauged from a single angle – magnitude of pressure due to the livelihood crisis that the country is going through. It is vital to acknowledge that measures taken in this regard correspond with the economic reforms which the Jordanian government agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The conditions are considered natural in terms of revitalizing the economy; and although these conditions are harsh, they are in the interest of the people. On the other hand, the Jordanian leadership is credited for its transparency in running its establishments due to its firm conviction that the people are the source of all power. Hence, King Abdullah II invited the government and both houses of the parliament to lead a comprehensive rational dialogue to exit from the crisis.
This dialogue should be based on the principle: “It is unfair for the citizen to bear the repercussions of financial reforms,” as per the King’s statement. I remember Winston Churchill returned to his people during the Second World War and requested them to help in bearing circumstances of the livelihood crisis. Churchill said, “We will only have a single meal daily, and this meal might be an egg, and we have to bear with it,” because the solid principle in managing any country is based on the fact that the people are the source of national wealth.
Unfortunately, this concept was erased by political systems cemented by coup movements in the Arab world, especially in Egypt during the reign of Jamal Abdul-Nasser. At the time, the State became the sole employer and fortified the rentier economy in its worst form. This prompted the citizen to function based on the knowledge that the State cares for him from cradle to grave without bearing any responsibility, believing it is his absolute right. This model — rentier — prevails in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries which were forced to impose taxes and fees to cover the deficit caused by the global financial crisis which has been continuing since 2008.
At the time, the percentage of support given to friendly countries, including Jordan, dropped. It is historically known that a significant portion of the country’s economy depends on foreign aid; thus, the flow of support is affected by the events around it. This forced Jordan to resort to the IMF to cover its needs. Everyone knows that this global establishment does not lend money without conditions which warrant economic reform; sometimes, the conditions are austere.
Undoubtedly, the wisdom of King Abdullah II in managing the crisis made him look like one of the protesters in front of the government and the parliament. Therefore, he specified the course principle of return for the people though comprehensive national dialogue. This leaves the ball in the court of the people who need to understand the nature of the current stage and the sensitivity of the global economic condition.
This is based on the fact that the more realistic the demands are, the more possibility of such demands being met; otherwise, the protest will only complicate the situation and attract destruction — it is like shooting your own foot. Therefore, the Jordanian protesters need to contemplate over the verse in the Holy Quran that says: “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones.”
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times