Crown Prince and tech in unmaking inequalities


By Fares Braizat - July 29, 2018

Inequalities are deeply seated feeders of publically expressed and hidden societal and individual grievances. The growing sense of inequality among citizens of Jordan is alarming. It has increased significantly over the past 20 years. The percentage reporting “equality does not exist in Jordan” increased from 13 per cent in 1999 to 30 per cent in 2018, and the percentage of those reporting “equality exists to a great extent” decreased from 20 per cent in 1999 to 7 per cent in 2018 (CSS Democracy and NAMASIS surveys respectively). The making of these feelings of inequalities has taken decades. Unmaking them will probably take decades too and we ought to be more reasonable in trying to solve the problem using different methods than those used to create it.

The sense of inequality is significantly higher than sense of injustice according to the same empirical sources. However, sense of inequality among citizens in marginalised areas is not only significantly higher than other places but also more alarming: 48 per cent in the south (Karak, Tafileh, Maan and Aqaba), 30 per cent in the north (Irbid, Ajloun Jerash and Mafraq) and 27 per cent in the centre (Amman, Madaba, Balqa, and Zarqa) reported that “equality does not exist” in Jordan. When comparing urban areas to marginalised peripheries, 26 per cent in both Amman and Zarqa say equality does not exist compared to 30 per cent in Irbid and 35 per cent in the 9 remaining governorates. The average of those 9 governorates is similar to that found in Maan in 2003 when 34 per cent said equality does not exist in Jordan. 

If anything, policy planners, makers and implementers should all be concerned about what may lie ahead. These expressions of inequality have been communicated sporadically by protesters since 1989, 1996, 2002-2003 and more frequently but not systematically, since 2010. In Tafileh, Karak, Thiban, Jerash, Mafraq and Maan alike, expressions have surfaced in small number of protests and protesters. Despite their relatively small size and frequency, their message has been consistent: We are suffering and the government is not doing enough. These feelings have been further fueled by the existing narratives of corruption. According to most recent NAMASIS survey, over 80 per cent attribute government inability to deliver services to corruption and government indifference, while a small minority attributes it to lack of resources. It is not farfetched to find these attitudes more prevalent among citizens in marginalised areas.

Given these deeply-rooted inequalities, imbalances in state-society relations may surface in a more frequent and systematic manner whether as protest movement, and/or digital venting or further distance from state institutions. Although Jordanians’ trust in security institutions’ ability to preserve stability is globally recognised and unmatched regionally, long-term stability is in the hands of an enabling state and those citizens, who are able to be good and law abiding citizens. State society relations in this formula ought to guard for a more robust system of checks and balances to preserve trust in institutions and deliver public good. 

The recent corruption scandals and increasing sense of injustice and inequality remind us all of Lord Acton’s famous quote “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The local version of Neoliberalism and its somewhat society-blind policies have produced hybrid forms of deformed economic policies that produced a variety of economic feudalism and financial monopoly while disregarding economic justice and equality in state-society relations. Neoliberals purposefully reengineered the state to concentrate political and economic power resources in the hands of the few leaving increasingly more people marginalised, disenchanted and disenfranchised. Granted, it is impossible to enforce complete equality. But it is reasonable to equip citizens with the tools necessary to fulfill their potentials. Then it is up to them to take advantage of these opportunities. If and when Jordan realises this goal, the state will not be held either morally or politically accountable for claims of entitlement but will be held to account if it does not sufficiently enable its citizens to access opportunities equally and fairly. 

Obviating further dilapidation of the decades’ long cultivated state-society relationship necessitates perceptive public policy planning and execution. The political and constitutional relationship between the state and society has been mutually-dependent since the inception of the state. It has gone through phases of mutual adaptation to the changing role of the state and state responses to its routine, and predictable challenges as well as existential threats, especially in the period 1967-1973. These adaptation strategies were managed through public spending on security, development of health, education and infrastructure. With coercive increases of the population through refugees and illegal immigration, these services, except security, are no longer paying off as they used to be. Education’s output is producing soaring unemployment and poverty rates, and the public health sector is not in an envious shape. These constitute a legitimate cause of concern. 

Therefore, and in order to create skill-driven economy for the most marginalised in the soft-belly of the south and as part of state-society adaptation strategies, creating a new tech industry through redesigning education there as part of a national plan in the south gearing all students from preschool time towards skills in new technology. Some will be global entrepreneurs, others will be engineers, a third tier will be technicians, and fourth tier provide supportive services turning them from state-dependent to globally competitive and demanded tech specialists. In other words, there is a path toward a peaceful and prosperous future for Jordan, but realising this vision requires meaningful revisions of public polices to promote equality and justice for all individual citizens not for the few. 

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein’s speech in Maan a few weeks ago spoke to the need and the future. Government plans must speak to the action in between.

Crown Prince and tech in unmaking inequalities
Publication and Articles

The raging “debate” in and about Jordan over the political reform process, in general, and the constitutional amendments, in particular, reflects a set of competing narratives that are rooted in deeply seated competing value systems among Jordanian masses and elites alike. These value systems are “survival values” and “self-expression values”. The former is characterized by emphasis on materialistic values, such as economic and physical security, resistance to change, traditional conservative viewpoints, more religious, less choice-based primitive associational life, and a sense of primordial pride.

 

The self-expression values are characterized by emphasis on participation in decision making in economic and political life, less religious, aspiring to change, protecting the environment, tolerance and acceptance of “others”, and gender equality.

 

Survival values are generally associated more with authoritarian predispositions, while self-expression values are associated with liberal democratic leanings.

 

Jordan’s cultural map produced based on the World Values Survey data set suggests that Jordan’s society is more like the societies with a survival-traditional value system than self-expression secular values. Jordan is in the league of Islamic and African societies — with various degrees of distance — along with Egypt, Libya, Yamen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunis, Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Iran and Turkey.

 

The most advanced on these scales are Sweden and, to a lesser degree, the countries in its league: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland.    

 

Given these deeply rooted value systems, we have to travel a very long distance to a fully democratic and functional political system. The reforms proposed by the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System are only road signs on a road to be paved.

 

None of the societies in Jordan’s cultural league – named above – are fully democratic, and most are fully autocratic, totalitarian, while maintaining a semi-capitalist economy. Some of these countries have a competitive electoral process, such as Turkey and Iran, but not necessarily democratic.

 

Those in Sweden’s league are fully democratic.

 

These value systems constitute the social origins of political orders. Therefore, they are consequential and relevant to the questions that are being asked today in Jordan and the region, such as to which one of the competing governance models should Jordan belong, to the authoritarian or the democratic ones? Or should it belong to a subtype of these two? And should Jordan have a choice to choose or to belong to one or another? Or, should it carve a governance model of its own? And if so, can it construct a reformed model that works for Jordanians to solve their chronic economic problems and be consistent with observed international standards?

Jordan’s reform process lives with the “new cold war” between competing models of governance which is raging globally, and societies are looking for “governance models” to address their many protracted economic problems.

 

When Jordanians and other Arab societies look around, they see two types of models: authoritarian with a mixed bag of economic success and failure; and democratic with more economic success than failure. Unfortunately, none of the Arab societies belong to the category of democratic and economically successful societies.

 

All economically successful countries are established democracies, while authoritarian countries tend to be more failing than succeeding economically.

 

Arab countries with authoritarian political regimes are either failing or failed states, like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. These states are either already disintegrated or disintegrating along many fault lines that include sectarian, religious, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic stratification.

 

Another type of Arab state is the “assertive authoritarian”, which is represented by the United Arab Emirates-Dubai model, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These are registering economic growth through top-down emphatic governance model, which is very attractive for “want-to-be-migrants” from other Arab countries, be they individuals or investors.

 

Assertive states are pushing economic modernization and, with it, various degrees of cultural modernity. The outcome of this model is yet to be seen. Is it going to look like democratic South Korea or like authoritarian China?

 

Although countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Kuwait run periodic, quite free and fair, competitive parliamentary elections, they produce parliaments with various degrees of political efficacy. Elections in Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia have not delivered a successful economic outcome as employment rates continue to climb and economic growth is meager. Therefore, it is essential for these countries to liberalize their economies fundamentally and end all monopolies to set free enterprise truly free.

 

Free markets tend to increase competitive economics, which in turn, increases socioeconomic mobility and individuals’ autonomy. These are among the many essential ingredients to drive a change in value systems from traditional to legal-rational and from survival to self-expression. These value systems are indispensable for the evolution of competitive political systems. A country’s commitment to democratic reforms can be read clearly in its ability to execute serious economic reforms that will propel all other reforms.

 

Given these realities, it is not surprising to see resistance to the Royal Committee’s proposals, for very different reasons. While the self-expression segment of society wants more structural reforms, the survival segment wants some measure of reform but without much change. The tactful ingenuity is to drive these reforms and their consequential outcomes while managing competing interests and value systems, maintaining stability, delivering services, and, above all, preserving the national interests in a very volatile environment marred by suspicion, distrust and perceived uncertainty.


 

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

 

 

 

 


For the original news source, click here

January 09, 2022- Jordan News

Although China does not appear on the “top of the mind list” of Jordanians when asked open-ended questions about which country is the largest economic supporter or the closest ally of Jordan, interestingly, 38 percent of Jordanians describe political relations between the Jordanian and the Chinese governments as “very good” and 54 percent as “somewhat good”, according to the foreign relations survey conducted jointly by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions and KAS last fall.

Moreover, 61 percent would like to strengthen these relations and 29 percent would like to keep them as they are. Those who would like to “limit” these relations constituted 8 percent of those surveyed. This means Jordanians, largely, have a positive predisposition toward China. What will happen to it in the in future, depends on how that “shared future” may turn out to be.

Consequently, when asked which country they would like Jordan to cooperate with more in the future, only 5 percent of the Jordanians surveyed mentioned China, improving from 1 percent in the 2018 survey. When asked which non-Arab country Jordan shares most foreign policy interests with, only 2 percent, mentioned China, while 63 percent mentioned the US, followed by Turkey, 9 percent, and the UK, 8 percent. Although China is climbing, it has a very long way to go when compared to traditional “allies” and “frienemies” of Jordan.

Despite the perception of 37 percent of Jordanians that China’s policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict is “pro-Israel”, of 9 percent that it is pro-Palestinians and of 45 percent who believe it is either balanced or indifferent, over half of adult Jordanians, 54 percent, would like China to play “a much larger” role, and 25 percent “a somewhat larger” role in the region.

There are reasons for such preference for a larger role for China in the region. In the most recent wave of the Arab Barometer Surveys (AB) 2018-9, 70 percent of Jordanians expressed a preference for “closer economic ties with China” and 73 percent want “more foreign aid” from China.

Most positions expressed on China by Jordanians are driven by economic reasons, which are of significant importance for them.

Although there is not much of a “shared past” between the Arabs and China, there might be plenty of a “shared future”. But reaching there will not be a smooth ride. China is moving aggressively on the economic front globally through many projects, and the “one belt one road” is only one of them; the region is not an exception to this global Chinese momentum.

Illustratively, despite the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) historical strategic relations with the US and the West broadly, China is building strategic partnerships with all GCC countries and their neighbors. To that effect, China’s 25-year strategic partnership with Iran, which is said to be worth $400 billion to be invested in Iran’s oil, petrochemicals, gas, infrastructure, business, services, telecoms, and technology transfer, is a case in point.

Iraq, Egypt and Algeria are building similar partnerships although their publics are less excited than Jordanians and Tunisians about closer economic ties with China, according to the AB surveys.

These developments make the region a more contested ground for spheres of influence. While regional and international players are blamed by Jordanian public opinion for instability in the region, namely Israel 54 percent, US 19 percent, and Iran 6 percent, China is not even mentioned. It is expected that the showdown is going to intensify over the next five years as China increases its economic presence and strategic partnerships in competition with the US and/or at its expense.

China has not yet weighed in politically, but its economic ties will dictate such an eventuality. When asked “which of the following non-Arab actors will have the strongest influence in the Middle East in 10 years”, the US came on top, at 42 percent (no change from 2019), but China came in second, at 13 percent, up from 8 percent in 2019.

So what does China want in the region? It is likely that China wants to: a) promote its model of assertive-authoritarianism by deals with governments, not peoples of the region; b) open and expand markets, c) ensures energy supply. In such a formula, China will appeal to like-minded governments in the region and if its economic projects deliver solutions to the chronic unemployment problems, it will appeal more to the peoples of the region. Its arch rival, the US, ought to reexamine its policies on governance, conflict and peace, and strategic alignments.

Perhaps a new regional security order has never been more relevant than now.

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

for the original news source, click here

January 16, 2022- Jordan News

When the country’s official unemployment rate is 19 per cent, and much higher among the educated youth, with nearly half of them planning on leaving the country, it becomes really hard for any well-balanced person with a little bit of touch with reality and people’s economic marginalisation to understand or accept from a national interest perspective why an enormous national economic treasure, such as the baptism site, is not utilised enough to realise its enormous economic potential. It must be important to a great number of the 2.5 billion Christians living in the world!

Investing in the baptism site will turn it into a bee-nest of employment opportunities for our emigrating youth. It serves the national interest of the country by reducing the sense of economic marginalisation, which will in turn lessen political socio-frustration stemming from a loss of faith in the government’s ability to enable the economy to create jobs for the ever-increasing hundreds of thousands of unemployed Jordanian youth. Polling data gathered by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions clearly demonstrates a less-than-satisfactory evaluation of public policies on unemployment, poverty, cleanliness, education and health.

When these issues are combined with a significant increase in the percentage of Jordanian households reporting that their household income is “insufficient and does not meet their needs” from nearly 40 per cent in 2011 to two-thirds in 2019, one cannot possibly ignore these indicators and brush them under the carpet in a blatant state of denial. Responsible people will definitely make the link between these realties and developing the baptism site to help solve them.

Therefore, an expeditious action to turn the baptism site from its unsatisfying and economically semi-idle current state to an economically vibrant Christian pilgrimage site is in order. Along with its sister sites — Mukawer, Nebo, Mar Elias, Um Al Jmal, Um Al Rasas and Jesus cave — it will generate wealth and contribute to the reduction of the many socio-economic and socio-political ills. These ills have been accumulating over the years due to a weak sense of responsibility and the accountability of public policymakers. The time has come to utilise the untapped potential that awaits reasonability and a sense of responsibility towards unemployed and impoverished fellow Jordanians.

When comparing to the western side of the River Jordan, which received nearly three quarters of a million visitors in 2018, the Jordanian site, which is recognised by the Vatican and Christian denominations, received only 143,011 in 2018. It becomes even harder to understand logically and sanely why the baptism site is not on a par with the other side, which is not officially recognised by Christian churches as the baptism site.

Is it not embarrassing to all those in charge of public policy that nearly over a third of our adult people are considering emigrating, a figure that has doubled since 2011? And that half of our youth are willing to leave the country after we invested in their education in search for jobs and better economic opportunities while we have, inter alia, the treasure of the baptism site?

All this comes in a direly alarming context of a perceived increasing sense of injustice and inequality in the country. In 1999, only 8 per cent of adult Jordanians reported that “justice does not exist at all in Jordan”, and thanks to the appalling inadequacy of public policymakers, it reached 23 per cent in 2018. Similarly, the percentage of those who believe that “equality does not exist at all in Jordan” increased from 13 per cent to 30 per cent over the same period.

These alarm bells should make policymakers more conscious of public interest and less focused on personal narrow interests. Denial and business as usual is not an option in these unusual times. Jordans’ dignity is an extension of Jordanians’ dignity.

October 26, 2019 - Fares Braizat
This Survey was conducted in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung in Jordan. For the complete study and findings please click here.
October 2021, NAMA, Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung

Despite the fact that 83 per cent of Jordanians are “very unsatisfied” with the way in which the USA handles the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an overwhelming majority described political relations with US as very good (68 per cent) and somewhat good (26 per cent). Moreover, when asked in an open-ended question who is the closest ally of Jordan, the US topped the list and when asked which country should Jordan cooperate with more in the future, the US shared the top spot with the Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, when asked which non-Arab country Jordan shares the most foreign policy interests with, 63 per cent named the US, followed by Turkey at 9 per cent. These numbers are a testimony of the complexity of a multifaceted interplay between rationality, interests and identity. 

In the emerging multi-polar global order and the ever-changing political sand dunes of the Middle East, it is always essential to tune into the “collective choice” of the people to stay the course of a meaningful policy. Today, the hegemony of the US in the Middle East region is challenged by international actors, such as Russia and China, and regional players, such as Iran and Turkey. Traditional allies of the US, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the EU, also diverge on a variety of issues. Cases in point are: Turkey’s air defence missile deal with Russia and the contentious issue of Israeli-Chinese relations. The rise of Japanese and Australian sea power, exemplified by their aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines deals respectively, along with the bolstering of other allies, such as India and South Korea, are attempts to “extend” the life of an ailing unipolar system guided by the United States. 

While the US and NATO are trying to maintain a unipolar global order, China is making inroads globally, and soon the least of which will be the one belt one road initiative. Within this international context and its regional extensions appear a new dynamic further integrating Israel into the region with American blessings. Examples of this integration include: new normalisation agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, as well as ideas pertaining to large-scale energy and water projects between Jordan and Israel. These continue to be crafted and negotiated. Although a majority of Jordanian public opinion (80 per cent) opposes these new agreements and older ones, there is a desire to improve relations with the US, the main backer of past and present agreements. Furthermore, in the rivalry between the US and either China or Russia, Jordanians who would like Jordan to take a position, say they would support the US; majority prefer neutrality.

Although Jordan’s relations with all parties involved in these dynamics are relatively smooth, of course to varying degrees, with the exception of Israel and Iran, a position that is also reflected by Jordanian public opinion, some observers have questioned the plausibility of having two opposing approaches to relations with the US. It boils down to interests. The US is by far the largest donor to Jordan in the past 10 years with $7,959 billion, followed by the EU and its member states $6,081 billion. Trade data (2010-2020) also suggests a similar pattern, with the EU topping the list as the largest trading partner to Jordan with $47,946 billion. This is followed by Saudi Arabia with $46,554 billion, and the US at $30,891 billion. Grants and trade are essential to understand how and why Jordanian public opinion views relations with the US and other countries in such a way interlinking interests ( the US) with identity (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) and rationality (separating US policy on Palestine-Israel from US-Jordan relations).

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

For the original news source:http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/fares-braizat/revisiting-us-jordan-relations

Nov 21,2021- Jordan Times