Publication and Articles
Jordanian's Perception of Climate Change
Jordanians’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior on climate change

NAMA’s Polling Center “SAWTI” – NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions conducted a survey on climate change gauging Jordanians’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior in relation to its causes and effects on the Kingdom. The survey was conducted on a multistage probability systematic random sample, which was drawn through a clustered stratified design of 1,827 respondents from Jordan’s 12 governorates, interviewed face-to-face between February 17-27, 2022.


An overwhelming majority, 87.6 per cent, of Jordanians stated they feel a change in the pattern of the weather, yet 52 per cent of Jordanians indicated their familiarity with the term “climate change”. High awareness levels of climate change were especially prevalent among respondents with higher education levels, as indicated by 70 per cent of those who have completed university education, 49 per cent among those who completed secondary education, and 36 per cent among those who have not completed secondary education.


When asked about what they knew about climate change, 54 per cent, of those who were aware of climate change, linked it with the change in weather and seasons; 20 per cent associated it with global warming, pollution, and rising temperature levels; 10 per cent indicated less water and deforestation; and 7 per cent referred to ozone depletion.


Over half, 54.4 per cent of Jordanians, who are aware of climate change, indicated that climate change is “very important” or “somewhat important” to them personally. When analyzed in terms of Jordan’s three regions, 49 per cent of respondents in the south region view climate change as a “very important” issue to them personally, compared to 36 per cent among the respondents in the center region and 33 per cent among those in the north region.


Further, 51 per cent of Jordanians – among those who have heard of climate change, believe that it affects, or will affect, them personally. Of those, 56 per cent reported that climate change may cause health issues while 12 per cent referred to economic implications.


When it comes to its causes, 46 per cent of Jordanians who have heard of climate change stated that “air pollution” was its main contributor, compared to 19 per cent for deforestation and 8 per cent for consumerism, as 3 per cent believe that climate change occurs naturally.


The survey findings reveal a pessimist attitude, especially that 58 per cent of those who are aware of climate change believe that there is nothing to be done to combat this challenge. On the other hand, 28 per cent argued that it could be tackled through reforestation, compared to 22 per cent who referred to increasing regulations on factories to better consider the environment, 21 per cent for using environmentally friendly products, 11 per cent for raising awareness, and 7 per cent for using electric cars and providing more public transportation options, as only 4 per cent indicated switching to renewable energy can contribute to reducing the implications of climate change.


When asked about who should tackle climate change, of those who are aware of climate change, 77 per cent said that the government, international organizations, and environmental organizations hold the most responsibility for tackling the implications of climate change. In contrast, only 6 per cent asserted that the responsibility falls on the individual. This small percentage may also explain why only 5.6 per cent of those who heard of climate change stated that they have taken, or regularly take, action out of concern for climate change. They clarified that they preserve the environment, plant trees, and use alternative energy sources, among other actions.


The survey also concluded that 64 per cent of Jordanians, who have heard about climate change, receive their information about climate change from social media platforms, compared to 26 per cent from television channels, and 7 per cent from other sources, including radio stations and newspapers, among others. When asked where they would prefer to get their climate change information from, 51 per cent – of those who are aware of climate change” indicated subject matter experts, 23 per cent referred to environmental activists and organizations, and 18 per cent indicated the government. It is worth noting that 57 per cent of respondents with university education prefer to obtain information on climate change from subject matter experts. The survey results also show that Jordanians are more concerned about the water crisis than climate change. In fact, 72 per cent of Jordanians reported that they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about water scarcity in Jordan in the next 25 years.


For the full study, please click here

For the infographics of the study, please click here

 
Where Jordanians stand on Russia-Ukraine war
March 27,2022-Jordan News

If the volume of trade does not explain Jordanians’ attitudes toward the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, what does?

Trade with Russia amounted to about JD183 million in 2021 (of which JD181.4 million was for imports). The trade volume with Ukraine is significantly less (JD141 million), yet there is more support for Ukraine than for Russia among Jordanians. There is background to this: nearly 90 percent of Jordanians believe that it is unacceptable for any country to invade another, according to a new poll by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions published Sunday.

It is not surprising to find the majority of Jordanians “neutral” on the raging conflict between Russia and Ukraine. When asked “who do you support in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine”, three quarters said “neither”, 13.6 percent support Ukraine, and 8 percent Russia. Jordanian public opinion remains consistent in its neutral position, similar to a 2021 NAMA Foreign Relations Survey which found that 80 percent and 79 percent of Jordanians chose neutrality when it came to the US-Russian and US-Chinese rivalries.

When asked which side they think the Jordanian government is supporting, about 45 percent said that the government is not supporting either of the parties whereas 16.5 percent believe that Jordan supports Ukraine, and 5.5 percent believe that the government supports Russia.

Fifty-seven percent of Jordanians believe that Arab states should remain neutral in the conflict, about 22 percent think that Arab states should support Ukraine, and only 5.2 percent believe that they should be supporting Russia.

These attitudes, the survey shows, come from Jordanians' perception that Ukraine is the victim and Russia the aggressor. Nearly 43 percent of Jordanians blame Russia for the war, compared to 12.3 percent who pinned blame on Ukraine; 33 percent were unsure and some 12 percent indicated other countries or entities, such as the US, NATO, and Israel.

The magnitude of the war and the impact it could have on other parts of the world makes nearly 82 percent of Jordanians believe that this war will have a negative impact on Jordan as well. About 91.5 percent referred to some type of economic repercussions, such as price hikes, difficulty in importing goods, and scarcity of natural resources and food items.

In line with the reputation of Jordan as a sympathetic and welcoming place of refugees, the survey found a high level of sympathy for the refugees: 54 percent of Jordanians are very sympathetic toward Ukrainian refugees, 22 percent are somewhat sympathetic, and 14.1 percent are not at all sympathetic toward them.

The survey found that 59.4 percent of Jordanians believe that European countries are doing enough to take care of Ukrainian refugees, compared to about 22 percent who think they are not doing enough.

Regarding the international reaction to the conflict, 45 percent of Jordanians believe that sanctioning Russia is justified, compared to 29 percent who believe it is not justified. On the other hand, about 36.8 percent of Jordanians believe that NATO (US and allies) should intervene militarily to stop the war, while 43 percent are against this prospect. This shows a higher support for non-military intervention among Jordanians, even though support for sanctions was not unanimous.

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

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Unlocking Jordan’s rail
March 20,2022-Jordan News

What is the problem of and what is the solution for the Jordan rail project? This is being asked by many for very different reasons because rail is essential for all economic activities and subsequent social mobility.

Despite the strategic importance of the rail network for the economic growth and development of the country, the project has been accumulating stacks of papers and resultant broken promises, with no tangible results. More of the same is no longer acceptable.

Although the Jordanian Investment Fund Law No. 16 of the year 2016 stipulated exclusive rights for the Fund to develop the rail, no tangible results are visible yet. The rationale for this exclusivity was to bypass all “perceived obstacles” and to “fast track” the construction of the national rail network with Saudi-Jordanian investment. The Saudi Jordanian Investment Fund Company (SJIF), which was established in 2017 under the articles of this law which is supposed to invest in infrastructure projects, including the rail, has not done so yet despite being operational for the past five years. Nothing was "fast tracked".

Since the investment clouds have not rained rails so far, we probably need to think of seeding other clouds to complement or replace the existing ones. For whatever reasons, SJIF moved on to other investments and it is not clear whether it will continue with the Aqaba – Maan (then Amman) stretch of the rail network.

In 2019, the US, the EU, Australia, Japan and Canada contributed a total of $2,393,673 to Jordan. This money was spent on a variety of important projects, some of which were agreed upon with the government of Jordan, while others were driven by donors’ agenda and priorities, which may be important, but are not necessarily priorities for Jordan.

By all measures, the national rail remains one of the most important projects, if not the most important, for the sustainable revival of the economy, economic development, equitable distribution of opportunities, women economic empowerment, environmental protection, and competitiveness.

It is about time that a donor fund for the construction of the Jordan rail be formed jointly with a consortium of rail companies of major donor countries such as the US, Germany, France, and Japan. The government of Jordan, based on its priorities, would reallocate donor funds per priority to the “Jordan Rail Fund”. This will be the most significant economic empowerment project for Jordan, with meaningful, direct and positive impact on people's lives.

Our biggest challenge today is economic, and at its core are the astronomical unemployment figures. The rail network project would help alleviate this pressure and preserve social cohesion.

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

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Helping tourism go upward and forward
March 06,2022-Jordan News

The Jordanian tourism sector contributed JD4.1 billion to the economy in 2019 and used to employ nearly 55,000 people, most of them Jordanians. The sector is labor-intensive and each job has an indirect impact on five other jobs. Its ripple effect propels the economy in ways only large infrastructure projects do.

Realizing this importance, the government allocated over JD50 million in new funds to the Ministry of Tourism to move the sector upward and forward. The investment is too little compared to the contribution the sector has been making to the economy, social safety, economic stability, social cohesion, cultural exposure, site improvement, tolerance, and putting Jordan on the international map of attractions.

The return on investment in the tourism sector is generally high, which makes investing in it worthwhile. In 2019, an investment of JD48.5 million in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (including JTB, Jordan Museum, and the Department of Archeology) generated JD4.1 billion in tourism receipts, as calculated by the Central Bank of Jordan.

The budget for 2022 is JD99 million. It is not expected to generate the same level of return as 2019, as the post-COVID-19 recovery of the global tourism industry will take some time, but it will drive the sector in Jordan upward and forward.

Although Jordan’s tourism sector is recovering better than that in other countries thanks to the efforts of the ministry and JTB and despite meager financial resources, comparatively speaking, there are struggles that will need government intervention at the policy level to rescue the weaker and collapsing hotels and tourism businesses that could not manage to pull through the pandemic despite the COVID-19-related support packages.

These hotels and similar businesses should be helped to regain a foothold in the promising upcoming seasons. The country’s readiness requires many actions, from immediate and short term to medium and long term, to accommodate the expected growth in the number of visitors and the length of their stay.

To ensure that tourists return after a first visit, the sector has a special responsibility to align policies at the national level to make the tourists’ experience memorable and repeatable. The issues are mainly national, rather than sectoral, and they should be addressed nationally by all stakeholders.

There are high hopes and expectations from the entire country. Probably the highest expectations are among our unemployed youth. It is the youth with expectations and faith in their country who we cannot afford to let down again, because letting them down is unacceptable.

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

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Working on serious economic reform
February 27,2022-Jordan News

Despite the solid foundations, the stability and security of the country, and the rationality of the overwhelming majority of Jordanians, many indicators from public opinion polls as well as hard data from official sources suggest that we have very little time to act on turning the tide of economic downturn. This was the gist of His Majesty King Abdullah’s message on January 30, 2022.

These are the background facts:

1. Confidence in successive governments’ ability to deliver on fundamental economic issues has been declining, and it is now at the lowest level since 1996.

2. The outcome of consecutive public policies, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to 23 percent national unemployment, with tens of thousands joining the labor market every year with little prospect to find a sustainable and productive job. It is even worse for the youth (both educated and less educated) and women, specially educated women.

3. Unemployment leads to many other social ills, such as poverty, which, in turn, leads to a series of other problems such as family disintegration, drug abuse, and crime. 

4. Confidence in parliament has also been declining. Voters’ evaluation of MPs’ ability to deliver on their constituents’ demands has been decreasing for many structural reasons that render MPs ineffective in the eyes of their people.

5. Weak economic growth, which leads to weak economic development, more unemployment, less income, and weak investment, compounds the economic problems, and that we definitely do not need.

6. There is weak and declining social capital. Interpersonal trust has declined from a third to 15 percent in the past 15 years. This has implications for state-society relations, national pride, social cohesion, and compassionate societal relations.

7. There is increasing perception of lack of justice and equality in society. This has implications on perceived equitable life styles, economic disparities, and the rule of law.

 

The list could go on. Suffice it to say, the accumulated problems, despite their severity at the levels of perception and reality, have not prevented the state from being resilient, moving on, forward and upward.

It is in this spirit that the National Economic Workshop convenes at the Royal Court under the title “Advancing into the future: unleashing the potential to modernize the economy”. This will be the 13th initiative, since 2000, to address public interest, and it is no exception in that it was received with more skeptical than accepting views.

However, the initiative and those involved in it realize that they have to move beyond the “politics of doing business” to the “business of doing business”.

Jordanians, all Jordanians, cannot afford another disappointment. All are expected to rise up to the challenge and deliver an outcome that responds to the economic priorities of Jordanians who have been putting up with many economic failures.

It is time to make a difference in their lives so they can regain confidence in their future and that of their children.

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

for the original news source, click here

Why there is political (dis)engagement
February 20,2022-Jordan News

When 70 per cent of eligible voters express various degrees of intention not to vote in the upcoming municipal elections, we have to ask ourselves why.

In two nationally representative surveys carried out by NAMA over the past few months, nearly a third of the eligible voters said they “will vote for sure” in the upcoming municipal elections. There are many underlying reasons for such an outcome, and they range from diffuse to specific.

First, this “majority withdrawal” from public life is consistent with the trend that has been emerging over the past few years and has been confirmed in various surveys carried out by the Center for Strategic Studies and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. This withdrawal has been intensifying and is positively correlated with: a) rising unemployment, b) increasingly weaker confidence in the government's ability to address economic problems, and c) weak trust in representative institutions: House of Representatives, municipal councils, governorate councils (after decentralization), and political parties.

This withdrawal is also positively correlated with growing dissatisfaction with government's performance in education, health, transportation, fighting corruption, and the environment, among others.

Second, there is weak conviction among eligible voters that participation will effect change. Some 58 per cent report that the country is heading in the “wrong direction”, yet there is very little association between this position and voting in order to change it.

 

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has done a tremendous job over the past few years to change that perception, but a lot more work remains to be done to regain public trust in the electoral process in general, whether municipal or parliamentary; this task does not rest exclusively with the IEC, rather it is a national problem that requires a national solution.

 

The trend looks like this: the more an eligible voter believes that the country is heading in the wrong direction, the less likely that voter is to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. Logic would suggest that a voter would express a strong commitment to vote to change a reality s/he does not like. Empirical evidence, however, demonstrates that 58 per cent of those believing that the country is heading “totally in the wrong direction” said they “will not vote for sure”. This compares to 26 percent who believe the country is heading in “the right direction to a great extent” and said they “will not vote for sure”. 

In this context, we can detect the “confirmative voter” who believes the country is heading in “the right direction to a great extent” and “will vote for sure”.

The conclusion is that the majority of eligible voters does not see voting as an effective way to effect change.

Third, there are issues with the perceived integrity and efficacy of the municipal electoral process. Eligible voters who said they “will not vote for sure” and those who said they are “unlikely to vote” were asked why. Half of them explained their positions by reporting issues of weak effectiveness and distrust in the process. Nearly a quarter reported “no worthy candidate”.

By comparison, when the eligible voters who did not participate in the in 2017 municipal elections were asked why, 35 per cent of them reported issues of distrust in the process and its effectiveness, and a quarter reported that there was no worthy candidate.

Therefore, there is a lot of work to be done to change this perceived image. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has done a tremendous job over the past few years to change that perception, but a lot more work remains to be done to regain public trust in the electoral process in general, whether municipal or parliamentary; this task does not rest exclusively with the IEC, rather it is a national problem that requires a national solution.

 

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

for the original news source, click here

Why reform, why now?
February 13,2022-Jordan News

Why was the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System (RCMPS) established, and is it going to be different from the 13 previous attempts since the early 1990s in terms of outcome?

These are the two main questions that have been surfacing since June 2021 and that this piece attempts to provide preliminary answers to.

Since 1989 when parliamentary elections were resumed after over three decades of regional political turbulence, we have witnessed the creation of over 13 committees to address emerging issues. These include the National Charter, 1991, Jordan First, 2002, The National Agenda, 2005, All Jordan, 2006, Royal Commission for Regions, 2008, National Dialogue Committee, 2011, Privatization Review Committee, 2013, Committee for Integrity and Anti-Corruption, 2013­–2014, Jordan Vision 2025, launched in 2014, National Human Resources Development Commission, 2015, Royal Commission for the Development Judiciary and Strengthening the Rule of Law, 2017, RCMPS, 2021 and the Public Sector reform committees, 2021–2022.

The number of initiatives indicates a realization that there are “issues” and they ought to be addressed. The above attempts varied from political to economic to governance issues, but the Jordanian public got fatigued, and as time passed, more Jordanians gradually lost interest in public affairs.

The most recent proof is that only 7 percent knew about the most recent public sector reform committee established and led by the prime minister. Recently published polls by CSS and NAMA show that nearly two-thirds of adult Jordanians are not following political issues and those who follow barely know about the content of currently debated issues, including constitutional amendments.

Detachment from public life is caused by a series of trend-full fluctuations since the early 1990s. It is precisely the same set of reasons that led to the establishment of the committee.

First, the identity of the economy is no longer the familiar “semi-rentier”, with its implications for state-society relations. It has been moving to a capitalist economy, albeit an immature one. This created disorientation. Foreign aid makes up 9 percent of government expenditure and 11 percent of domestic revenue. Thus, the economy is largely self-dependent.

Second, declining confidence in civilian public institutions, especially representative institutions like parliament, in which confidence declined from over 50 percent before 2011 to a third now.

Third, trust in successive governments declined from as high as 83 percent in the late 1990s to the lowest point ever since then, 34 percent now; the current prime minister is seen as the lowest-performing since polling government performance started in 1996.

Fourth, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Jordanians saying “justice does not exist in Jordan”: from 8 percent in 1999 to 37 percent in 2021.

Fifth, unemployment increased by 10 points compared to 2011, and reached 50 percent among youths in 2021. Sixth, social capital has declined significantly from nearly a third in 2007 to nearly 15 percent in 2018. Seventh, a significant increase in the percentage of adult Jordanians who expressed their intention to emigrate, from 18 percent in 2011 to nearly a third in 2021.

Jordan has also suffered in international indicators such as the Freedom House index of civil liberties and political rights, where Jordan was described as “not free” in 2021. A similar result is also to be found in the respectable Transformation Index BTI, where Jordan was described as “moderate autocracy”.

For all these significant changes in state-society relations, the RCMPS was created to present some solutions. The political solutions presented by the RCMPS are not enough to address all issues mentioned above. There is need for economic and administrative committees to chart the way forward. This is critical because when people become indifferent to public affairs, they give way to “a few” to control public life while the majority’s discontent, detachment, and disenchantment are growing exponentially. Such a track is not only unsustainable, it is also dangerous.

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

For the original news source, click here

Radical education reform
February 02,2022- Jordan News

The condescending attitude and tone of some self-described “elites” toward youth is inexcusable and, at times, morally repugnant. It reflects an inadequate understanding – there is plenty of superficial understanding – of the problems our youth are going through, especially of the poorly performing education system at all levels.

The role of the state in education is supposed to be “enabling” and “skilling”. Sadly, the mismatch between education outcome and market needs testifies to a growing problem that has not been addressed properly yet.  

The education system – lower and higher – releases nearly 200,000 people into the labor market every year (2021 base year), and this number is expected to grow on yearly basis. The overwhelming majority is going to join the ranks of the unemployed. Together they will drive youth frustration to new heights. Yet, major reforms of the school and university education systems have not been contemplated.

Today, we are still seeing a weak response of the education system to the market needs. Some pundits are heard blaming the youth for the problems of unemployment, poverty, and drugs. The blame should rest largely with education policy planners, makers and executors over the past two decades. The outcome of their planning and execution is 50 percent youth unemployment and a similar percentage considering migrating.

When policy is driven by trivial political calculations and shortsightedness, it is inevitable to fail. That failure cannot be clearer than it is in the education sector, which needs a radical “choice-based education” reform.

The basic pillar of this reform should be to enable parents to choose whatever schools they want to send their children to with a government-paid voucher system that gives parents the ultimate power over schools, and this should include public and private schools alike.

School administration ought to be decentralized, too. School management ought to be led by the head master with a school council. The school council should consist of parents who have children attending the respective schools. The school and its elected council must have the power to reward and punish teachers and administrators, fire and hire teachers and administrative staff based on clearly agreed upon key performance indicators. This incentive- and performance-based system should provide the foundation for a competitive result-oriented, rather than a process-oriented, system.

The prevalence of private tutoring is a statement about the quality of education students get in schools. Parents are not supposed to be teachers at home and they should not be overburdened with extra financial expenses for private tutoring to support their children education. This practice must stop and the only way to stop it is to create a properly accountable education system.

The layers of administrative staff can be reskilled and repurposed to serve the education in classrooms instead of accumulating reports that are not improving the education.

It is unfortunate that Jordan’s ranking in the international standards tests is not improving much. Without a major overhaul of the education system, our economy is not going to be able to compete in an increasingly science-based global digital economy, and we will have to deal with the consequences of angry, frustrated, weakly skilled – yet educated – youth.

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

 
Rationality, sympathy, and refugees
January 30,2022- Jordan News

The overwhelming sympathy toward refugees who fled persecution or for economic reasons remains very high among Jordanians. However, when these sympathies are examined against economic rationality, they tend to change in degree, not type.

A survey published jointly by UNHCR and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions last week shows that over 90 percent of Jordanians are “sympathetic toward people who come to Jordan to escape conflict and persecution for reasons of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. This level of sympathy decreases in a statistically significant manner, although it remains above 80 percent when the reason for seeking “refuge” is economic.

The further we examine attitudes, the more apparent economic conditions surface as a major driver of change in attitudes.  

What determines acceptance or rejection of refugees and immigrants? Does it differ from one society to another? Immigration research provides many determinants of attitudes toward refugees and these determinants do differ from one society to another. Some societies base their position on whether they need the services of the refugees or immigrants – economic determinants, while others factor cultural affinity, language, religion and education of the asylum seekers in the process of accepting or rejecting them.

When comparing Jordanian attitudes to those of European societies, we uncover interesting patterns. 

In comparative terms, a recent study by the immigration lab of Zurich and Stanford, titled “Decoding European attitudes toward refugees”, which analyses data from 18,000 Europeans in 15 countries on “how economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shape European attitudes toward asylum seekers”, concluded that “among those most likely to win acceptance were asylum seekers with professional skills and proficiency in the host country’s language — those who are expected to benefit rather than burden the local economy”.

The study finds that if an asylum seeker is a doctor they are 11 percent more likely to be accepted than an unemployed person (base = 0), and if the refugee is a Christian, they are 11 percent more likely to be accepted than a Muslim (base = 0). The language of the host country, consistency of the asylum narrative, and vulnerability show similar probabilities, where 0 means they are does not speak the host country language, there is inconsistent asylum narrative, and the refugee is not vulnerable.

In a previous survey by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and NAMA, in December 2018, 84 percent of Jordanians described political relations between Jordanians and Syrians as “very good or somewhat good”. A higher percent of Syrians in Jordan (98 percent) described political relations in the same way.

 

Although these attitudes reveal cultural affinity and humanitarian sympathy, when the economic conditions of Jordanians are taken into account, economic rationality begins to cause a shift in Jordanians’ perceptions of Syrian refugees to be less positive.

Although Jordanian hosts and Syrian refugees have stated good grounds for these positions, both acknowledge the economic difficulties linked to refugees, and which affect Jordanians, especially those at the lower end of the economic scale.

In the KAS-NAMA 2018 survey, when Syrian refugees were asked the open-ended question “taking all things into consideration, which country do you think treats Syrian refugees best”, 78 percent of them named Jordan, followed by Canada, at 6 percent, Turkey, 4 percent, and Germany, 2 percent.

Although this might be conditioned by the context, 92 percent of them responded “yes” to the question “do you consider it an advantage being a refugee in an Arab country with a similar language and culture”. Furthermore, when asked “if you were given a choice, which country would you choose to go to as a refugee?” 56 percent chose Jordan, 19 percent chose Canada, 4 percent chose the US, 3 percent chose Germany, and 2 percent each chose Turkey, UK, and Sweden.

Moreover, when asked “to what extent have you felt welcomed in Jordan”, 98 percent said they were welcomed. Also, 88 percent said they feel more welcomed in Jordan than in Lebanon and Turkey. These declared attitudes were mirrored by Jordanians.

On average, when Syrian refugees were asked to evaluate their impact on a variety of issues in Jordan, including security, infrastructure, water, education, health, labor market, government debt, the economy, trust in public institutions, 15 percent reported they had a “positive” impact, 25 percent said “negative”, 55 percent said no impact. An overwhelming majority of them, 77 percent, said their presence in Jordan had a positive impact on Jordan’s image internationally. While this is widely recognized by Jordanians and others, it does not ease the economic pressure ordinary Jordanians feel.

The perceivable change in Jordanian public opinion toward refugees is demonstrated in the decrease by 12 points between October 2020 and November 2021 of the percentage of Jordanians saying that “Jordanians’ perception of refugees” is positive. This decline can be explained by a body of opinion, ranging from 94 percent agreeing to the statement “there are too many refugees in Jordan”, to 81 percent agreeing to the statement “Jordan has done more than it needs to support refugees”, to 69 percent agreeing to the statement “Jordan should focus on helping Jordanian not refugees”, to 69 percent who agree to the statement that “refugees get more help than Jordanians”.

These concerns of Jordanians should not go unnoticed by the stakeholders. While even great communication tools and messages fail to change realties, it is essential to combine Jordanians-oriented development interventions with “proper” strategic communication effort to mitigate the changes and preserve what remained of social cohesion.

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

For the original news source, click here

Alienation and inclusion of youth
January 23, 2022- Jordan News

While we celebrate successful Jordanian youth entrepreneurs, like Zeid Y. Al Husban and Sahar Barqawi, a substantial segment of our youth is still facing multiple layers of alienation and exclusion from public as well as social life. The alienated youth, just like their successful peers, seek an opportunity for more active inclusion in the economy and the political process. Moreover, their alienation is not the only serious problem we should be addressing in the political reform efforts under way. There are other important issues.

An equally important and related issue is the mass exodus, across all age groups, out of the electoral process. Empirical evidence from the 2016 and 2020 parliamentary elections demonstrates that the older a voter is, the more likely he/she is to abandon the electoral process. This mass departure causes structural deficiencies ranging from institutional imperfections to dysfunctional representation of socio-economic interests. Furthermore, such distortions often lead to unhealthy polarization over dominance of competing narratives; one outside the electoral process, often tinted with apathy, and one, inside it, overwhelmed with frustration with parliament performance and dissatisfaction with outcomes that go beyond parliament.

Here is the empirical set of evidence. With the exception of the age group 17-25, who had a higher voter turnout in 2020, namely 38.2 percent, than in the 2016 elections (37.4 percent), participation rates of all older age groups declined by an average of: -5.5 percent for 26-30 years old; -7.1 percent for 31-40 years old; -8.8 percent for 41-50 years old; -9.5 percent for 51-60 years old; and -12.1 percent for 60 + years old. This means that the national decline average from the 2016 to the 2020 parliamentary elections stood at -6.2 percent. These rates were recorded notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19, which was the cause for abstention of roughly 325,293 voters, according to a post elections survey by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions.

The number of actual voters in the 2020 elections was 1,387,711 out of 4,640,643 eligible voters. This means 3,252,932 did not vote for various reasons. Those who cited COVID-19 as a reason for not voting were 10 percent of the non-voters. When added to the actual voters, the figure comes to 1,713,004, which 36.9 percent of eligible voters. The increase over the 2016 voting rate would be 0.8 percent, which comes from the increase in the number of voters in the age group 17–25.

The absence of youth from the electoral process is a very important issue. Although the 17–25 years old were the highest participating group in the 2020 elections, at 38.2 percent, the participations rate of the next age group, 26–30, declines significantly to 25.1 percent, i.e., a decline of 13.1 percentage points. This decline is double that of the 2016 elections when these two age groups recorded 37.4 percent and 30.6 percent participation rates, respectively.

This is a clear sign that the excitement of first-time voters quickly fades away, at an alarmingly high rate as well, and that is attributed partially to the Parliament’s inability to maintain their confidence, let alone the fact that the only social groups that do accept them – those associated with universities and local neighborhoods – celebrate electoral boycott.

The other significant issue is young female participation. Females in the 17–25-year-old age group are less likely to participate than males by some -10.5 percent, -6.3 percent for the 26–30 age group, -4.4 percent for 31–40 age groups, -5.8 percent for 41-50 age group, -7.8 percent for 51–60 age group, and -12.4 percent for the 60+ age group. Overall, women are less likely to vote by -8.0 percent nationally.

The issues we must address are: (a) a substantial portion of youth is migrating out of the political system; (b) youth integration in the economic system has been insufficient; and (c) they continue to be socially alienated, bullied at times, suppressed at others, and ignored.

The implications are severe, and range from widening the breeding ground for all sorts of radicalization, to indifference to public affairs, and possible withdrawal from ordinary life to other manner of living, with all the ills of such pathways. It is important to assert that those who choose alienation are not necessarily making a choice, but are most likely being pushed to do so since the economic system is not being responsive enough to their needs, thus leading to withdrawal and alienation.

While surgical economic interventions to expand the private sector to accommodate the demand on jobs cannot wait any longer, we ought to design pathways for alienated youth to feel a “sense of ownership” in the political system. Reducing the candidacy age for parliamentary elections from 30 to 25 is a small progressive step, given the severity of youth absence from the electoral process, but we should work to reduce it to 18, with serious incentives, especially for young women, to engage politically, and that includes offering financial incentives in the form of reducing candidacy fees and required bonds. Since they are not too young to vote, carry weapons, have a family, guard the borders, drive cars, pilot planes, they are certainly not too young to run for elections when they are 18.

 

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

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Is China appealing to Arabs?
January 16, 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.

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Of authoritarianism and democracy
January 09, 2022- Jordan News

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.

 

 

 

 


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Can we achieve the target in tourism?
January 02, 2022- Jordan News

 

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities fixed a target of 5.5 million tourists by 2025 in the Tourism Strategy 2021–2025 launched last week. The target is half the visitors of 2010. The strategy is yet to be followed by action plans with detailed key performance indicators and timelines for each action item.

To achieve this target, the government allocated the unprecedented amount of JD84,121,000 in the 2022 budget for the Tourism Ministry, nearly seven fold the usual annual budget, which was JD11,515,000 in 2019 and JD12,693,000 in 2010. An estimated amount of JD40 million will be assigned to support incoming low-cost carriers (LCCs) mainly from Europe.

In 2019, visitors from Europe contributed 12 percent of the tourism receipts, while regional tourists (Jordanians and Arabs) contributed 73 percent, according to official data. Is it more economically feasible to focus on the European or regional feeder markets? There is a good catch either way, but if we go regional, we are tapping into a bigger, accessible, proximate, and wealthy market with some cultural similarities. This can go alongside expanding European feeder markets.

Nonetheless, to understand the drivers of tourism growth we should compare the number of tourists in 2010 to those in 2019. These two years represent the two peaks in the past 10 years. The total number of visitors (not necessarily tourists, as the number also includes Jordanians) in 2010 was 11,390,949, compared to 5,360,587 in 2019, when there was a significant drop. What was the reason for this drop and can the new allocation be invested in to achieve the set target?

 

Here are the facts based on official data that may help us plan efficiently given our meager resources.

 

Jordanian visitors dropped by 2,079,028 between 2010 and 2019.

In 2009, their number stood at 2,618,249, of whom 1,788,374 arrived by land and 791,149 by air.

In 2010, their number stood at 3,584,224, of whom 2,662,953 arrived by land and 887,205 by air.

In 2019, their number stood at 1,505,196, of whom 570,709 arrived by land and 933,225 by air.

Arab visitors (excluding Jordanians) dropped by 3,596,889 million between 2010 and 2019.

In 2009, there were 5,385,610 Arab visitors, of whom 4,563,468 arrived by land and 533,630 by air.

In 2010, the figure was 5,955,546; of those 5,101,965 arrived by land and 578,354 by air.

In 2019, there were 2,358,657 Arab visitors, of whom 1,571,374 arrived by land and 696,397 by air.

European visitors dropped by 321,432 between 2010 and 2019.

In 2009, their number stood at 974,259, of whom 590,613 arrived by land and 281,849 by air.

In 2010, their number stood at 1,201,217, of whom 669,156 arrived by land and 379,721 by air.

In 2019 their number stood at 879,785, of whom 669,156 arrived by land and 503,555 by air.

 

This data suggests that there is a steady and significant increase in air travelers among these three groups. However, while LCC-earmarked support is focused thus far on European markets, data suggests that we should invest more in the regional market because over 70 percent of our tourists are from the region, especially those with land access. Therefore, we should invest in land and air travel from regional feeder markets, including in improving the infrastructure of the crossing points, and targeting low-cost flights from the Gulf for getaways in Jordan.

The total number of overnight visitors decreased from 4,557,022 in 2010 to 4,488,407 in 2019 (-68,615). The total number of EU overnight visitors decreased from 736,870 in 2010 to 677,983 in 2019. Although there were not any LCCs from EU in 2010, the number of visitors was higher than it was in 2019. Was it because of competition? Most likely yes. The number of overnight visitors in 2019 decreased significantly, compared to 2010, from the following traditional feeder markets: UK, France, Scandinavia, Spain, Belgium, and Austria. Those markets were major feeders to Egypt. The number of overnight visitors, however, increased from Italy, Poland, Romania, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Netherlands in the same period of time.

As the strategy indicates, it is not enough to bring in more visitors. The sector needs local administrative actions to propel itself upward; those include reducing the cost of energy, more efficient and less bureaucratic obstacles for work permits, postponement of loan payments, support for businesses that are on the verge of collapse or those that were forced to close down, less regulation and arbitrary intervention by multiple agencies. Also, it is essential to invest in developing Christian pilgrimage sites, and building convention/exhibition centers in Petra and Amman to keep the sector afloat during low seasons. Moreover, there must be reliable, frequent, safe, and affordable transportation between sites across the country.

The sector is overregulated. Without major reform, shift in mentality, and recognition that tourism is the backbone of the economy we will not be able to match emerging competition from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries that offer very similar products to ours with massive infrastructure investments and shrewd marketing. Our strength versus this competition depends on developing two major pillars: the Dead Sea and Christian pilgrimage sites. All else can float as is or be realigned.

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

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Primordial and civic identities revisited
December 26, 2021- Jordan News

 

The “debate”, using it metaphorically here, about national identity that ensued after the publication of the outcome of the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System (RCMPS) is thought provoking. The one-sided avalanche of accusations originated with an accusatory claim that the RCMPS coined a new phrase “collective national identity” which “indicates hidden agenda”. Then, a few social media activists picked it up and continued using the accusing language as the main defining and framing discourse of a systematic attack on the committee’s outcome. Two former prime ministers used that language too, and expressively accused the committee of hiding something up its sleeves.

Let us examine the discourse and the motives.

The accusations were based on cherry-picked, selective and out of context phrases. The attackers, who appeared to be fishing for something, neither presented a coherent argument nor were consistent in their declared, on-the-record, positions. The declaratory, lamenting, and discursive language they used reflects politically motivated attacks that lack objectivity, logic and reason.

The 90-member strong committee was composed of all colors of the ideological spectrum, from right to the left and everything in between. None of these members objected to any point in the final document, including the usage of “collective national identity” which is not new in the political discourse in Jordan. Late King Hussein, King Abdullah and many national documents emphasized it in many forms and by using phrases such as “Jordanians from all origins and walks of life”.

The legal interpretation of this collective identity is the nationality law in which all Jordanians who hold a national ID number are defined as rightful citizens who have civic obligations, civil liberties and political rights.

Jordan, unlike all other countries in the region, has objectively become the closest to the “melting pot” despite the elite-centered subjective declarations to the opposite. Its pot is full of ingredients: Arabs from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Hijaz, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, and Circassians, Chechens, Kurds, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Asians, and Turkmen; they are Muslims and Christians. These are yet to become more citizen-centered horizontal than vertical “political society”. The process of building a political society takes time, ability to manage differences, compromise, clarity of vision, and determination to reach the goal of legally balanced state-citizen and state-society relations. 

These primordial identities, ethnic and religious, have been present in all societies, including the most advanced democracies, but their presence in a democratic process does not mean they have become civic identities, although democracy tends to smooth sharp edges. Civic identities are based on free individual choice. One may choose one of them freely, too. However, the danger rests in chauvinistic interpretation of primordial identities where they become exclusionist, isolating, and self-righteous.

Multiculturalism in a democratic setting makes it clear that “cultural/primordial” identities ought to stay apolitical. This means when a cultural identity seeks political representation by using primordial foundations for acquiring political power, the civic premise of “civil polity” changes and turns from horizontal civic identity to vertical primordial identity.

History of war and peace teaches us that the intensification of vertical/primordial/cultural identities leads to a range of problems, from silent conflicts to all-out violent wars based on, largely, illusionary and imaginative animosities.

Vertical identities are exclusionary by nature. Hence, using them as political identities contributes to the disintegration of “societies” into “sub-societies”, as is the case in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Israel, among many other countries such as Catalonia, in Spain, and in Eastern Europe.

Despite the reductionist talk about vertical identities in Jordan, the horizontal identity has very promising potential as a rational choice to develop the country. The changes to the election and political parties’ laws will pave the way for a more horizontal representation of citizens during the next 10 years.

The future belongs to those who work for it and we have to make sure that the unequal economic development gap between Amman and the rest of the governorates is bridged in order to rebalance state-society relations and build institutional legitimacy based on development-guided vision for the country.

The overwhelming majority of Jordanians are “proud” to be Jordanians. Making them “very proud” requires a lot more serious work across the board.

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

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Jordanian society’s varied ideological spectrum
December 20, 2021- Jordan News

 

Political parties should be the political expression of crystalized interests of various socio-economically atomized groups in the society. The basic ideological orientations of the society are mapped around worldly and godly issues. The godly issues are rooted in religious faith while the worldly issues are linked to the materialist daily life of people.

While the overwhelming majority of Jordanians place very high importance on religion in their lives and describe themselves as religious, regardless of whether they frequent religious places, they do differ significantly on worldly and public policy issues. Public policy issues are, ideally, the field of political competition among various political groups and parties.

On issues such as the role of the state, private versus public ownership of business, competition, income equality, and other similar topics, Jordanians, like other peoples, vary significantly.

According the 7th wave of World Values Survey (2018-2020), 54 percent of adult Jordanians say that “private ownership of business should be increased”, while 43 percent say “government ownership of business should be increased”; these numbers correspond to 81 percent and 18 percent in the US, 67 percent and 30 percent in Sweden, 38 percent and 58 percent in Turkey and Egypt, 37 percent and 51 percent in Russia, 36 percent and 50 percent in Ukraine, and 32 percent and 65 percent in Tunisia.

These societies have been through many processes and models of modernization. Some, like the US, followed the path of free enterprise, with market rules and antitrust laws. Sweden followed a path similar to the US’ but with a more generous welfare state provisions. Jordanians’ attitudes are closer to those of American and Swedish societies (majority prefer private ownership of business) than to those of Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine and Tunisia, where the majority prefers government ownership of business.

The experiences of the former Soviet societies, as well as of Arab socialist societies (Egypt) or of those where modernization is led by the state (Turkey and Tunisia), indicate that socio-economic change takes time and the fact that there are significant differences among those countries suggests that the various models of modernization have not produced the same results. Some of these countries ended up on a troubled pathway to democracy (Russian, Ukraine, Turkey and Tunisia), some reached the “end of history” by a combination of capitalist economy and liberal democracy (US and Sweden).

Given these experiences, the Jordanian society stands a reasonably good chance to develop a combination of capitalist economy with a preference for a significant role for the state as enabler, and to build a functioning democratic model. While the former is already well under way in terms of values (as 81 percent of Jordanians believe “we need larger income differences as incentives”) and in practice, as the private sector makes over 80 percent of the GDP, the latter – developing democracy – will be more difficult despite the steps that have been taken over the past three decades and the more recent outcome of the Royal Committee to modernize the political system. The difficulty is rooted in the inability of socio-political groups to spell their positions on public policy issues in a way that responds to actual, not imagined, societal needs.

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

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Reforming the public sector
December 15, 2021- Jordan News

It is a huge undertaking, but only those who believe it is marvelous and performing well — immediate beneficiaries — will want to wait forever to reform the public sector. While there are some exceptions, like the Central Bank, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Finance, the overall level of performance in many sectors, such as education, health, transportation, environment, local councils, public works/maintenance, energy, agriculture, water management, cultural reform, youth education and tourism infrastructure, leaves a lot to be desired.

Because of this weakness, Jordan’s position in many international indices has been falling — more recent in the knowledge index — and this should not be allowed. These shortfalls have structural, more than cultural, causes that can and must be addressed.

At structural level, while keeping the sight on the role of the state as an “enabler”, it is logical to set a target to make the size of the public sector similar, not necessarily identical, to its size in the economy as an objective measure, or one of many. Therefore, there is need of a scheme prescribing the number of employees needed by public sector institutions, and in what professions and skillsets. This should be accompanied by a plan for a proper exit for redundant employees (overemployment), which would entail reskilling and upskilling programs along with proper evaluation of skills and areas of improvement, that would enable them to, perhaps, join the private sector, which needs more space and fewer obstacles to grow to absorb more employees.

It is surprising to realize that many institutions have employees without a written job description. How can one develop proper evaluation KPIs without a benchmark?

A comprehensive program across all government institutions requires linking incentives and retribution to performance only, and that ought to be based on scientific measurements of institutions’ performance. As part of this effort, the Civil Service Bureau must be overhauled to maximize competition based on skills, digitize government delivery, and root out the phenomenon of hiring “ghost employees” (see Ministry of Water fiasco).

The political, economic and financial costs associated with the existing state of affairs in the public sector are too expensive to ignore. The longer its reform is delayed the more expensive and difficult it will be to fix. Although modern bureaucracy must be impersonal and it should operate like a machine, investors, who are the best barometer to measure practical public sector performance in real time, have been complaining about slow, employee-driven, procedures, unnecessary lengthy processes, inefficiency, irresponsibility, intentional delays and arbitrary interpretation of legislations, among many other complaints.

Those investors and their projects are badly needed for the economy to grow and to contribute to the reduction of the worrying unemployment problem. Unfortunately, they have been moving out of the country in droves, either for good or to branch out in new markets when they are badly needed here for economic and political reasons. Their departure negatively affects the reputation of the country and sends all the wrong messages to local and international investors.

The civilian sector costs the treasury 33 percent of the domestic revenue, which equals 45 percent of the tax revenue, according to the 2021 budget. These shares are not expected to go down in the next few years if things continue to go on as they are.

From a cost-benefit analysis perspective, the sector is not delivering the quality services it is paid to deliver. Therefore, principles good governance ought to be applied to improve performance.

We do not have to go far to see why the public security sector which costs the treasury 18 percent of the domestic revenue, which equals 24 per cent of the tax revenue, is doing a good job while the too expensive civilian sector is not.

The security sector performance has been measured against the level of people satisfaction with safety, security and crime rates over the years. By the same yardstick, the civilian public sector is lagging behind significantly.

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

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National revival requires deep economic reform
December 14, 2021- Jordan News

Among the many pressing dilemmas we live with, the growing levels of unemployment stand out as a byproduct of, among other things, weak economic growth. In order to address it properly and yet partially, we must have the capacity to grow the economy at a 6-8 percent rate per year. This magnitude of desperately required economic growth necessitates serious structural economic reforms that go beyond sporadic, inconsistent, and cosmetic interventions. These reforms are: significant reduction of energy costs, cheaper access to land, less stringent and more flexible regulatory environment.

At a 25 percent national unemployment rate and nearly 50 percent of youth unemployment, business as usual in an unusual time is not an option for “all” state organs. When 207,000 adults sit in on the final school exam in 2021, it means we have a new wave of entrants to the labor market. Nearly 70 percent of the successful candidates of the exam, about 113,000 students, were accepted at universities, public and private. This means that nearly 130,000 individuals, who either failed or passed the secondary school exam, joined the labor force. Add to them nearly 60,000 graduate and postgraduate who joined the labor force, it comes to nearly 180,000. If these numbers remain similar in the next 6 years, we will have over 1 million fresh entrants to the labor market. Between 2010 and 2019, the economy generated, on average, nearly 48,000 jobs per year, 33,000 by the private sector and 15,000 by the public sector.

Although, on average, the private sector constitutes 86 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the public sector accounts for 14 percent of it (according to data from the Department of Statistics and Jordan Strategy Forum), job generation is disproportionate, as the public sector generated 31 percent of the total new jobs between 2010 and 2019 despite the fact that it makes 14 percent of the GDP, again on average between 2010 and 2019.

Therefore, the public sector is saturated and is the wrong avenue through which to address the unemployment problem. In fact, the sector needs a major overhaul that is based on clarity of roles and responsibilities, job descriptions, competition, and performance-driven upskilling and reskilling programs that lead to a fire and hire approach to reenergize the public sector.

To grow the economy, we must reduce the cost of energy. The state must relax the asphyxiating grip of National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) on the economy and the country. It is absolutely perplexing to watch the abundance of renewable energy not being utilized because of the classical and unacceptable pretext “no capacity on the grid”. The country must not be held hostage to NEPCO’s inadequate management of the electricity sector.

The “single buyer” model is not working for our economy and it must be reformed. Why should NEPCO buy fuel for the electricity generation? Aren’t we operating a private sector-led capitalist competitive economy? Why is there a monopoly in this sector? Let businesses generate their own energy, let them grow, expand, export, and employ the youth, who will not sit idle for long.

Additionally, both local and international investors are being driven out of the Jordanian market because of the prohibitively expensive access to land especially for projects that require large plots of land, particularly in underdeveloped areas. We are competing over our own Jordanian investors with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkey.

Moreover, the frequently cited problem by investors of “legislative instability” must be addressed with a biding legislation that guarantees stability for at least 20 years so businesspeople can plan their finances and operations properly without fearing unexpected regulatory shocks.

These problems are compounded by high interest rates that render private business uncompetitive and consequently unprofitable. Because of these policies, capital accumulation by the private sector decreased from 22.5 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2019, whereas in the public sector it decreased from 4.4 percent to 3.1 percent over the same period. Moreover, the consumer of these policies, the tax payer, who pays 74 percent of domestic revenue in 2021 budget, is not happy. A recent poll of 3,010 adult Jordanians conducted by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, to be published soon, found that 70 percent of respondents believe the government works for the benefit of “the few” and only 28 percent believe “it works for all Jordanians”.

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


From ‘promoting’ to ‘protecting’ democracy: No political subtleties
December 05, 2021-The Jordan Times

The contest between democracies and autocracies is gaining a new momentum with the virtual democracy summit organised by the United States and scheduled for December 9-10, 2021. The show down over the summit is an episode of a long series of rivalry on the international political theatre. China called the summit a “joke”, while the Russian and the Chinese ambassadors to Washington described it in a rare jointly-authored op-ed as a product of “Cold-War mentality” of the United States, and it will create “ideological confrontation and a rift in the world… and new dividing lines". Despite these criticisms, the US is marching ahead with the summit to which only Israel and Iraq from the Middle East are invited. 

By doing so, the two camps are reconfirming their divergent worldviews on governance. After all, it seems that history has not “really” ended after Fukuyama set the scene ablaze in early 1990s claiming that liberal democracy and capitalism represent the final stage of human evolution — the “end of history”. The actions of the three great powers, and those of the “wanna-be”, are indicative of a deeper renewed struggle over competing value systems. While the United States says this summit is for action on building “democratic resilience”, the autocracies are pushing the model of “effective governance” pointing to the Chinese model of sustained economic growth. The appeal of the “reframed” Chinese economic model and the assertive Russian political model are yet to be seen on the global stage and especially in the MENA region. 

The politics of the invitations is telling. Turkey and Hungary were not invited. Tunis, Morocco, Jordan and Kuwait are among the electoral democracies that were excluded. Turkey, the NATO ally, and Hungary, the EU, member state were also excluded, most likely, on the basis of “authoritarian / populist” politics of their leaders. In so doing, the US appears as sending a message to all that the Biden administration is serious about democracy and it will “penalise” friends who derailed somehow. An approach that some diplomats would rather avoid and suggest an alternative “private talk” to avoid public confrontation with “allies and friends”. 

These latest manifestations come as the world is witnessing “global democratic backslide” which is associated with potential security ramifications. Secretary of state Anthony Blinken emphasised in the OSCE summit in Stockholm last week the need to “protect democracy” as democracies tend to be more prosperous, stable and peaceful. A message also echoed in the NATO meeting held in June 2021. It appears that the republican-conservative militant “democracy promotion” agenda of the early 2000s is being replaced by liberal-democratic diplomatic “democracy protection” agenda after the total failure of the former in Afghanistan and the partial failure of the latter in Iraq. 

Despite the global democratic backsliding, the changing political winds in Washington were and are being felt in the MENA region. Many countries are experimenting with a “version” of electoral democracy, political reforms, and repositioning themselves in an increasingly multi-polar global order. Although democracy suffered, and is suffering some impediments, and despite its problems it remains better than any other form of governance known to humans in the past 500 years of history.


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


For the original news source, click here

Jordan’s ‘law and order’ status a function of state-society relations
November 28, 2021- Jordan Times

For the past two decades, Jordanians have been reporting very high levels of satisfaction with safety and security in their neighbourhoods and the country at large in identical percentages. In this sense, they stand out when compared to other countries in the region and beyond. Reported satisfaction with safety at the neighbourhood level is identical to that reported at the county’s level in many of the surveys conducted in Jordan such as the Arab Transformation Survey. In all other neighbouring countries there is a gap, and in some of them it is a hugely significant gap. 

Empirical data demonstrate much less satisfaction with safety at the country level when compared to that at the neighbourhood level in the conflict-ridden neighbouring countries. For example, Iraqis report nearly four times satisfaction levels with safety in their neighborhoods higher than that at the country level. This means less popular trust in the national security policies and institutions. In countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Tunis, and Libya, it is expected to find such positions. 

According to the recently published Law and Order report by Gallup, confidence in the local police in MENA region stood at 72 per cent, compared to 49 per cent in Latin American and the Caribbean, which reported the lowest levels of confidence in the local police, while Western Europe reported the highest levels of confidence in local police at 82 per cent. 

In Gallup's Law and Order Index 2020, Jordan ranked 16 worldwide and second among Arab countries after the UAE, which took the second spot globally after Norway. Confidence in the Jordanian police has been in the range of 85-95 per cent since 2000, one of the highest globally as the World Value Survey data demonstrate. For other neighbouring countries, confidence in the police has fluctuated significantly over the years, especially in Iraq, Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen and Lebanon. Some MENA countries did not allow these surveys to be carried out but allowed a certain survey!

Jordan’s “law and order” status is a function of state-society relations. Jordanians cherish their safety and sense of security, not only at the country and neighbourhood levels, but also at home. When asked if they ever “felt unsafe from crime in your own home in the past 12 months,” 88 per cent reported never or rarely. This compares to 88 per cent in Canada, 92 per cent in Germany, 93 per cent in Hong Kong, 98 per cent in South Korea and 87 per cent in each of the US and Egypt, according to the latest wave of the World Values Survey.

Despite these globally recognised ranks, there are a few measures that have to be taken to fine-tune loose ends and reinforce state monopoly over the use of force. Coercive power must be limited to state organs within the limits of the law and the constitution. Law and order education should be integrated in all public policies in order to ensure the solidification of an incubating value system that appreciates and respect the law and rejects unlawful wrong doing.


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


For the original news source, click here

Revisiting US-Jordan relations
Nov 21,2021- Jordan Times

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

Baptism site and unemployment
October 26, 2019 - Fares Braizat

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.

Teachers’ strike: A reality check
Fares Braizat - September 28, 2019

Teachers have produced a compelling “justice narrative” to frame their strike campaign. At the level of the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA), the adherence of teachers to the strike and its message reflects an extremely disciplined, well-organised and committed body of JTA members. At the national level, it is this narrative that makes nearly three quarters of those who support the strike attribute their support to “teachers’ difficult economic conditions”, according to a two-wave nationally representative tracking poll of 2,516 adult Jordanians published last week by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions that covered the strike between September 9 and 19. 

Since the early 1990s, the conventional social contract has been changing and inequalities have been increasing despite the growth of the nation’s GDP to the highest levels since the inception of the Kingdom. These inequalities are practically symbolised by the teachers’ strike today. 

In 1999, when Jordanians were asked in polls about the extent to which justice exists in Jordan on a four-point scale (to a great extent, to a medium extent, to a little extent, or justice does not exist at all), 8 per cent said “justice doesn’t exist at all in Jordan”. This increased to 23 per cent in 2018. Over the same period of time the percentage of people saying “justice exists to a great extent in Jordan” has decreased from 30 per cent to 10 per cent. This may partially explain why 41 per cent of Jordanians support the strike despite its “impact on students and their families”. The latter is the most important reason for those who oppose the strike, as 60 per cent of them cited this reason.

Changes in support and opposition to the teachers’ pay raise and strike, don’t change the fact that socio-economic inequalities are increasing, especially when comparing governorates. Although 56 per cent, on average, oppose the strike. The poll shows that opposition has increased from 55 per cent on September 9, to 69 per cent on Thursday, September 19 while support has decreased from 42 per cent to 29 per cent over the same period. 

Support for the teachers’ pay raise and the strike is highest in the poor south which is made up of the governorates of Karak, Tafileh, Maan and Aqaba. As a region, the south has been showing all signs of distress over the past three decades. Similar signs are present in Madaba which is counted as part of the centre (Amman, Zarqa and Balqa) although its indicators are close to or worse than the south. The latest such indicator is Department of Statistics data from Madaba registering the highest unemployment rate among Jordan’s governorates. 

According to a recent report by the UNDP, “The overall inequality measure remains little affected by the urban/rural divide, but differences between governorates account for 8 per cent of total inequality. Income inequality is higher when measured with income than with consumption. Furthermore, social transfers buffer income inequality by bringing down income inequality measures by four percentage points.”   

This mix of data may either upset or please the JTA and GoJ. But it shows that there is a societal split in Jordan over the issue, as 60 per cent support teachers’ pay raise, but as the strike goes on, GoJ loses more credibility and teachers lose more support. Ultimately, we are all losing because our public policies have not been “good enough” to address our growing socio-economic injustices and inequalities which are gradually depleting state credibility as over two decades of accumulative polling data on evaluation of government performance clearly demonstrates.

From political egalitarianism to competitive politics
Fares Braizat - July 28, 2019

The current system of political parties’ funding ensured, by design, a very low level of incentivised political competition among political parties. It was premeditated to “offer”, rather than “reward”, parties financial aid on an “egalitarian basis” in a similar way to social welfare support. The system is egalitarian in the sense that each party is eligible for an equal sum of money by virtue of being legally registered. Hence it is legitimate to name it “political social welfare”.

The system, which has been in operation since 2013 and amended in 2016, proved to be ineffective in promoting multi-party competitive politics, building parties’ capacity, encouraging citizens to engage in parties and to increase party-driven political participation.

While the official political discourse has grown rich on the necessity for more effective political participation, parties were cruising on autopilot, fuelled by fixed equal public funding for each party.

In an attempt to change the current reality, the new draft of parties’ funding regulations presents a good opportunity to create a more competitive political environment by rewarding measurable parties’ achievements as opposed to the existing one-size-fits-all funding scheme currently in operation.

Recent polling by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions on the performance of political parties suggests that an overwhelming majority of Jordanians believes political parties are ineffective. Even name recognition of parties is at very low levels. Their electability is even worse. It is expected that the newly drafted regulations of political parties’ funding are going to be rewarding in terms of parties’ effectiveness, increasing political participation, parliamentary efficacy, democratisation and democracy solidification. The proposed changes are steps in the right direction in terms of rewarding political competition and expanding youth and women involvement in a multi-party polity.

The new draft regulations present a good opportunity for all political actors in the political process, including political parties and government, to move democratisation forward towards parliamentary government. In line with good international practice of political parties funding, these regulations give parties a chance to demonstrate their seriousness and to do away with the previous system of “political social welfare”.

 

 

How to achieve meaningful political reform?
Fares Braizat - July 23, 2019

The main goal of political reform is to achieve a parliamentary government. Practically it means the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc should form the government. In light of not having achieved this goal since 1989, the logical question is why has a democratic reform that entails a parliamentary government not occurred since then? And what are the consequences for state-society? Since 2000, the topic of parliamentary government has appeared over a dozen times in His Majesty’s vision and has been more explicitly spelled out since 2012 in the King’s Discussion Papers. The ultimate goal of political reform is achieving a parliamentary government based on political parties who compete in general, periodic, free and fair elections. This leads to the rotation of power through the ballot box. 

Generally, Jordanian public opinion is positive towards democracy. However, the culture of political democracy  needs to be rooted through institutional mechanisms and behaviour. A recent representative study of Jordan’s population that surveyed 3,020 respondents, conducted by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, found that 84 per cent of Jordanians believe that it is important (64 per cent very important, 20 per cent important) for them to live in a country that is governed democratically. Jordanians assess the level of democracy in Jordan to be 5.62 out of 10, while they asses the level of democracy in Turkey and the US at about 7.5 out of 10. Jordanians assess the democratic development in Jordan with mixed views: 12 per cent believe that democracy in Jordan is developing rapidly, 52 per cent believe that it is developing slowly, 19 per cent believe that it is stagnant and 16 per cent believe that it is regressing. 

In light of the aforementioned, three-quarters of Jordanians believe that Jordan is governed in the interest of a few and a quarter believe that it is governed in the interest of the majority of people. Only 22 per cent of those whose age ranges between 25 and 34 believe that the country is governed in the interest of the majority. This percentage is the lowest among all age groups. Whereas 77 per cent of that age range believe that the country is governed in the interest of a few, the highest among all age groups. The situation differs slightly percentage-wise for the age group of 65+, where 37 per cent of them believe that it is governed in the interest of the majority, compared with 60 per cent believing that it is governed in the interest of a few. 

The percentage of those who believe that Jordan is governed in the interest of a few increases with the increase in the level of education. Citizens living in governorates are the least believing that Jordan is governed in the interest of the majority. The governorates of Maan, Karak, Tafileh, Madaba, Ajloun, Irbid and Balqa’s average was lower than the national average (27 per cent). Amman, Zarqa, Aqaba, Mafraq and Jerash on the other hand are above the national average.

In light of this empirical evidence, the state started various constructive initiatives addressing governance dynamics, but that is not enough to achieve the vision laid out repeatedly by the King. The work by the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs on reforming political parties’ funding system is a step in the right direction. 

Rationalising protest action
Fares Braizat - May 20, 2019

Back in February 2011, nearly three-quarters of adult Jordanians and 80 per cent of the elites’ sample supported protests that were taking place in the Arab world demanding political and economic reforms. At the same time, support for the protests in Jordan was around 47 per cent among the public, and 63 per cent among the elites’ sample. Reported participation rates were 7 per cent among the public, and 21 per cent among the elites’ sample. Obviously, the social desirability effect was evident, as people were associating with a very positive atmosphere in early to mid-February 2011, when this poll was carried out by the Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS).

Support percentages, as well as reported participation rates in protest activities, dropped significantly after the Arab Spring turned bloody in Tunisia, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Lower levels of support for, and participation in, protests throughout 2011 and 2012 were also a function of state responsiveness. The state started a process of national dialogue, engaging relevant political forces, whether organised, such as Islamic Action Front Party, or loosely organised Hirak activists. This process led to constitutional and structural changes that moved the country forward in a peaceful manner.

Since 2011 and until now, many factors have changed locally and regionally. Internal weak economic performance, coupled with regional realignments and global competition in and over the region, produced a complex web of intersections that Jordan must deal with proactively. One of these complex issues is managing state-society relations under economic stress and government inapt polices. While the government is not producing satisfactory results for the public — the lowest performing ministerial team since 1996, according to CSS and NAMA polls — the public is becoming increasingly edgy. Recent polls show that support for protest action has grown from around 15 per cent in 2012 to 63 per cent in April 2019.

The question is whether this change of attitudes is going to mean more protest action in the streets. Judging by previous attitudinal and behavioural data trends, it is unlikely to see mass protests across the country, despite the growth of dissatisfaction with government performance. However, the current pockets of protesters will remain active, and it does not necessarily mean significant sustainable growth for a few rational reasons:

First, there are 1.3 million subscribers to the Social Security Fund. This affects the lives of 6 million Jordanians who have direct interest in preserving the “certainty they know” over the “uncertainty they do not know” despite the fact that a majority of them are not satisfied with government performance.

Second, Jordanians trust the military and security institutions. This trust extends to a deeply-held belief that these institutions will keep the interests of Jordanians at heart despite sluggish civil institutions performance.

Third, the perceived and actual costs of protest action are relatively high compared with the benefits that participants may expect as a result of their action. In addition to monetary cost, there are social and political costs associated with the participation in and promotion of unconventional political action that discourage people.

Fourth, preserving stability is very important to the overwhelming majority of Jordanians. Even peaceful protest discourages people from coming to Jordan and those in the country from going around the Kingdom; it exerts pressure on tourism, transportation and incoming patients and students. Tourists’ numbers show how inconsequential protests have been.

Disruptive politics: Investors, protesters and government performance
Fares Braizat - April 29, 2019

Government performance and investor confidence are at historic low levels. The recent survey published by Jordan Strategy Forum shows a few shocking numbers, such as 65 per cent of the 580 surveyed investors saying “the country is going in the wrong direction”, up from 46 per cent back in September 2017. Today, nearly two-thirds of the public and the investors agree that the country is going in the wrong direction. Going back to the Centre for Strategic Studies’ January survey and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions’ April survey, the trend is confirmed.

Government performance follows similar trends. Today, according to NAMA’s April survey, of 3,020 Jordanians aged 18 and more, only 30 per cent said the ministerial team was doing a good job; 70 per cent have an opposite view. Although the prime minister is doing a little better than his team, he remains among the lowest performing PMs since 1996. Only 43 per cent said he was doing well, according to NAMA’s survey.

Against this backdrop, there is also an informal aggressive grassroots campaign mobilising people to take to the streets in Ramadan. This effort is led by many Hirak activists, and supported by new groups and individuals for a range of reasons that may look contradictory on many levels; however, they all share discontent and have the Fourth Circle in sight. This build-up is evolving in an environment of dissatisfaction with the economy, public policies and public sector leadership.

It is not unexpected that political disruption may become the name of the game in an environment of new waves of protest in the Arab world and higher levels of support for collective protest action. Adaptive strategies by the government and state institutions ought to avoid denial and face issues of public leadership at government level head-on. When only 2 per cent of Jordanians say government policies have a “very positive impact on their life”, and 17 per cent “positive impact”, while 80 per cent say either no impact,  negative or very negative impact on their life, according to NAMA’s April survey, the time for a serious revision of public conduct has gracefully arrived. Such a revision becomes all the more pressing considering figures that show that 77 per cent of investors, according to JSF and NAMA investor confidence index survey, say the investment environment in the country is not encouraging, up from 56 per cent in March 2017.

Today, the government seems fragmented at a crossroads. The combined power of investors’ anger, protesters’ determination and perceived lack of government responsiveness could send shock waves across all public and private institutions.

Jordan, Qatar and GCC: Realignment within Arab cold war?
Fares Braizat - April 21, 2019

Jordan has very little interest, if any, in being part of any inter-Arab cold war, or wars. The current irrational and unjustifiable cold wars and their active theatres have caused significant economic and financial troubles for Jordan, and will threaten the stability of the region for a long time to come. Jordan will continue to pay a hefty price for it. Since 2011, Jordan neither needed, nor wanted, to be part of reckless adventures around the region, such as the thoughtless Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. Despite intense pressures, Jordan kept a reasonable distance but was besieged by the conflicts and their premeditated and consequential harmful politics.

Now, more than ever before, we need to break free of this despondent state of affairs and build a safe future for our children and be part of human progress and development, capitalising on the strength of the existing institutions we have built so far. To improve our institutions and address our failings with unemployment, poverty and investment attraction, we need to reprioritise our foreign policy to align it with internal growth. This requires a balance of interests with our regional partners. It is not advisable to be singularly ideological in foreign policy design and conduct, especially in a turbulent region like the Middle East where realism and idealism may work together as much as against each other.

In principle, we should invest in peace and stability rather than war and destruction, and we should work for a “democratic”, not “authoritarian”, just peace. Hundreds of billions of dollars were wasted on wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq. The outcome is more killing and destruction and much less respect for all parties involved among their own people and globally. The region does not need, and cannot afford, more bloodshed or blind negative competition. If a few billion were spent on development in Yemen instead of war, the Yemenis will remember those who built their country as allies for long time to come. The same applies to Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon and Libya.

All countries in the region should have, by now, learned their lessons. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) internal strife is harming the GCC family and their cousins in the neighbourhood. It is not wise for the cousins to take sides in a family contention. Cousins and neighbours should help resolve the issues, not magnify them. They should play a positive and constructive role for the benefit of all.

Hence, the recent rapprochement between Jordan and Qatar attracts special attention. Last week’s visit by the diplomatically-seasoned and politically-dignified Qatari Minister of Defence Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah to Jordan with a delegation of senior security sector officials and diplomats, and his meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah, the prime minister and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff points to a serious Qatari interest in collaborating with Jordan’s security sector. If the political will was not there on both sides, this visit would not have happened and agreements would have not been reached. 

Such cooperation builds upon nearly 4,000 filled jobs out of the promised 10,000 for Jordanians in Qatar, and $500 million of investment in projects in Jordan. Two hundred million worth of projects have been already identified and more is to come soon. The Qataris are very interested in working with and in Jordan. The two countries need one another, and they should cooperate more and reinstate ambassadors to contribute to the reduction of tension in the region and be constructive rather than destructive.

Although Jordanian public opinion is not where it should be, with regards to perceptions of relations with Qatar, both parties are invited to do more. In 2018, only 0.3 per cent of adult Jordanians named Qatar as “the closest ally of Jordan”, compared with 41 per cent who named the US, 22 per cent who named Saudi Arabia and 5 per cent who named the UAE, according to a nationally-representative survey by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. When asked which country Jordan should cooperate with more, 1.3 per cent named Qatar, compared with 19 per cent for the US, 20 per cent for Saudi Arabia and 8 per cent for the UAE. Among the Jordanian elites, the position is less promising. Only 0.2 named Qatar as a “closest ally of Jordan”, compared with 50 per cent who named the US, 5 per cent who named Saudi Arabia and 2 per cent who named the UAE. When elites were asked about which country Jordan should coordinate with more in the future, Qatar was named by 0.3 per cent of elites, compared with 20 per cent who named the US, 8 per cent for Saudi Arabia and 1 per cent for the UAE.

Jordanian public opinion and the elite may have been influenced, partly though, by the fact that Qatar did not pay its contribution of $1.25 billion as part of the GCC support package for Jordan a few years ago, while Saudi Arabic, the UAE and Kuwait paid their contributions and more. It is never too late, especially when Jordan is going through a major economic crisis. Jordan stepped in when Qatar needed help since the 1970s until recently in theatres where Qatar was involved. It is hoped that ambassadors are to be reinstated soon and both countries are building more cooperation bridges

Jordan on the brink again, really?
Fares Braizat - April 13, 2019
Since the 1940s, with each wave of instability in the region, we hear voices talking about the imminent “collapse of Jordan”, with titles such as “Jordan on the brink”, now add “again”, then add: “How did Jordan manage through?” Each wave is associated with a set of strong external and internal reasons that support the “collapse theory”, which has become a heavily used grand theory. The said theory has provided an easy way out for those who do not want to dig deeper to understand the centrality of Jordan’s geopolitical importance and its implications for internal and external political actors, whether they are rational or not.

External reasons would include fluctuating and unstable international and regional alliances. Today, some of these voices point to a changing role of Jordan vis-a-vis Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Jordan has been through far more drastic changes in the past 70 years and it proved resilient. Though challenged these days, its resilience is very likely to endure the stormy winds of the current high regional and international tides. One indicator of this possible endurance is the global and local recognition of His Majesty King Abdullah’s role.

Fuelled by the recent events in Algeria and Sudan, dubbed Arab Spring 2.0 (AS 2.0), and the unprecedented levels of discontent with consecutive governments, the current government’s ministerial team in particular, and perceived lack of accountability as compared to responsibility, some observers of Jordan and its politics expect a mass protest to take place in the next few weeks, especially during Ramadan. Is this going to really happen? And if it happens, is it really going to be consequential?

First, let us differentiate between research, advisory, advocacy, lobbying and activism among “observers” expecting such a wave. Policy advisory research, whether shallow or deep, is not blind advocacy, although it might be used for advocacy. Some have argued privately and publicly that a mass protest supported by the middle class and the elites seems to be in the making, repeating last year’s protest that toppled Hani Mulki’s government. These arguments are put forward by activists with wishful thinking, advisers with cautious minds and rigorous calculations and “lobbyists” who have competing interests.

Although, theoretically, protest possibility is exacerbated by an increasing belief among economically marginalised segments, particularly the 388,000 unemployed people and the youth among them, weak belief in the state’s seriousness to fight corruption and a significant increase in the percentage of Jordanians believing inequalities and injustices are widespread, the translation rate from theoretical attitude and even anger to action remains very small. As small as it may be, it should not be discounted. After all, not all Algerians took into the streets in AS 2.0.

Although the sense of inequalities and injustices may have increased after the unemployed marched to Amman, and some untimely government appointments of the past few weeks, coupled with its inability to respond convincingly to public criticism, it remains unclear yet whether these developments are going to mobilise more “automised people” to move from “idle observers” to “active participants” in a potential protest. A possibility that cannot, and should not, be ruled out.

Unlike previous waves of protests, the “expected new one” could build on discontent among the unemployed youth and politicise it as its backbone with a significant high moral grounds and familial support of potential participants. If that happens, a new wave of protests is not likely to be contained without major structural changes addressing “deeply seated issues”.

If not politically averted in a preemptive manner, it will become rather difficult for the state to “manage” a headless and unorganised mass movement fuelled by anger, disappointment, hopelessness and a legitimate demand: jobs. The likelihood of mobilising the unemployed alone as the backbone of the movement is serious and can lead to a mass protest that may take the country to an uncharted journey.

Moreover, there is a significant build up among activists of various backgrounds to prepare for another “Ramadan Fourth Circle” episode. The solution to such a new wave of protest is economic and cannot be a via a security approach. Since the economic solution requires time, a preemptive political solution ought to be seriously considered as soon as possible.

Today, more than ever before, people are observing how the state and the King are going to rebuild public trust in state-society relations by leading a “white revolution” from the top to avoid a potentially protracted political crisis. This starts with a serious association between responsibility and accountability from top to bottom. All those who are making decisions and /or spending public funds affecting peoples’ lives must be held accountable to their policies and spending. Jordan will pass this time too at some cost, as ever, and the “brink” will be put, once again, farther away.

Ramifications of Trump’s deal
Fares Braizat - April 6, 2019

f the leaks of US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” turn out to be true, or somewhat true, a few countries across the region will have to face hard choices. One of those countries is Israel. Will Israel accept being a bi-national state for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews?

With the practical death of the two-state solution, which nearly a third of Israelis now support, Israel will have to make choices that will not only affect its internal make-up and external relations, but will have serious ramifications for neighbouring countries and international law.

With the unprecedented blatant support from the Trump administration and the implementation of practical steps in favour of Israel, including recognising Jerusalem as its capital, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, recognising the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and, now, introducing the language of annexing the West Bank, or parts of it, especially Area C that constitutes the majority of the West Bank, the “deal” is coming together gradually whether we like it or not. It will be imposed either forcefully, seductively or both.

According to the latest Haaretz poll, 42 per cent of Israelis “back” the annexation of the West Bank, while only 28 per cent oppose it. The backers differ on the conditions of the annexation, but it is important to know that only 11 per cent support annexation with full political rights for the Palestinians. Only 15 per cent support annexing Area C. Twenty per cent of Israeli Arabs support the annexation of the West Bank with political rights, as opposed to 9 per cent among Israeli Jews.

Despite its staunch position on all illegal annexations, Jordan will be most affected, whether by choice or design. The leaks indicate that there is pressure on Jordan to “officially naturalise Palestinian refugees”. This means turning a blind eye to, and possibly facilitating, the continuous loss of the “refugee” status of Palestinians in Jordan, whether citizens or not. This helps Israel and Trump’s team solve Israel’s problem at the expense of Jordan and the Palestinians. Such pressure puts Jordan, Palestinians and Palestinian refugees in Jordan and elsewhere in a very precarious position, facing very hard choices.

A response to this impasse cannot, and should not, be left to Jordan alone. It has to be arranged with all other partners who care about international law and the ethical values of justice, fairness and humanity. Jordanians of all walks of life must have a say too. It is their future after all and they should not be surprised neither by force, nor by seduction.

Jordanian political parties: Time for carrot-and-stick approach
Mohammad Abu Dalhoum - April 4, 2019

Since the 2012 demonstrations, Jordan has implemented a number of constitutional reforms in its efforts to expedite the process of democratisation. The Royal committee for constitutional reform, along with the government and Parliament, have debated and worked on reforming the Constitution, with the electoral law at the core of these reforms. Parliament at that time debated the electoral law and introduced multiple ideas.

As such, the 2013 parliamentary elections introduced a mixed electoral system, comprising of both a single-member district system to elect 123 MPs and a proportional representation (PR) system to elect the remaining 27 reserved seats. This system was introduced to further institutionalise political parties in Parliament. However, given the absence of a threshold criterion and the number of reserved seats, the outcome was a mosaic of 23 different political parties/ blocs occupying the 27 seats, four of which had two MPs or more.

As the 2013 electoral system was inefficient to foster the development of political parties, the 2016 elections abandoned the one-person-one-vote system altogether and introduced block voting for all seats while lowering the number of MPs to 130 instead of 150. The new law stipulated that eligible votes would elect 115 members from 23 electoral districts using open-list PR, with 15 seats reserved for women and nine for Christians, Chechens and Circassians. Fifteen political parties participated and won 42 seats, compared with 61 national lists that participated in 2013, competing over the 27 seats.

This brief background shows that progress has, in fact, been made. While only 18 per cent of the 2013 Parliament were representatives of national lists and political parties, the 2016 Parliament has about one-third of its members representing political parties. There are currently 47 registered political parties with the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs, 15 of which participated in the last elections, while the remaining abstained. According to the 2012 Political Parties Law, each existing licensed political party receives an amount of JD50,000 annually as a contribution from the state.

We should not let the progress made stop us from doing a better job in the next elections. It is imperative for a threshold to be represented in the next parliamentary elections: Political parties need to perform better and state funding should not be given as a mere contribution without accountability. As such, it is time for a carrot-and-stick approach. Political parties that win representation in Parliament should be incentivised, while those who do not should not be given full funding. This is expected to incentivise them to run developed campaigns discussing core policy issues, and with time, we may finally see them develop more advanced ideological stances, which will enrich plurality within the political scene

Unknown knights: Countering terrorism with conviction
Fares Braizat - March 23, 2019

In 2018 alone, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and its renowned counterterrorism squad thwarted 62 terrorist operations abroad and 32 internally. This is a conviction-based global service. One can only imagine the mayhem that could have ensued, globally and locally, if a few of these operations were to be carried out. The above mentioned pieces of evidence demonstrate that the threat of terrorism has not faded away and will not fade away anytime soon. Terrorism is rooted in prejudice, grievances and xenophobic ideologies. Terrorists are intolerant exclusionary individuals and they will continue to be out there no matter what governments do globally and locally.

Therefore, the fight against terrorism goes beyond covert attritional operations and this requires a deeply seated conviction not only among those fighting terrorism, but also their political, social and operational environments. At the political level, George Tenet, in his book, co-written by Bill Harlow, “At the Centre of the Storm”, offers a respectable insight about political quibbling; politicians never allocated all requested funds when asked for by his agency in the years leading to September 11. Had resources been allocated satisfactorily with less risk-averse politicians, the September 11 attacks could have probably been foiled too. In the resource-poor Jordan, known successes far outweigh its allocations compared with similar agencies.

Jordan’s political counterterrorism environment is rooted in “conviction” as opposed to a service to other countries, as a global public good. The global service Jordan is delivering stems out of deeply a held historical anti-terrorism conviction. Terrorism hit Jordan since the 1950s, with the assassination of King Abdullah I, premiers Hazza Majali and Wasfi Tal, diplomats, hijacking of planes, seizures of buildings, bombs in public buildings, targeting security installations and personnel, attacking hotels and killing civilians indiscriminately. David Ignatius’ novel “Body of Lies”, although a fictional book based on actual events, offers a good insight about Jordan’s GID fight with terror and how Jordan dismantled a complicated terrorist organisation.

Nearly 70 years in the fight made Jordan a pioneer, innovator of strategic and tactical methods and an experienced data hub. Preventing terrorism and countering it, along with its incubating environment of radicalisation, not only requires a global effort, but most importantly necessitates turning data into information and timely actionable intelligence.

Allies of Jordan in the fight against terrorism, as a well as adversaries, know very well how generous and efficient Jordanians have been. They should also know that Jordan is committed to the global public good of fighting terrorism as a conviction of strategic importance, not a tactically-ridden wave of convenience. It would be useful to know how many operations were foiled by other intelligence agencies to build better awareness of what is done behind the scenes so that we can live while they work for peoples’ safety and peace of mind. After all, people here refer to security agents as the “wakeful eye”. Civilian agencies need to step up to match the efficiency of the security establishment. Otherwise, the cost is going to be high for all.

Reinstating Jordan’s social capital: An Italian lesson
Fares Braizat - March 16, 2019

The issue of concern to us today is that Jordan’s social capital indicators have declined significantly to an alarming low edge. Only 16 per cent of adult Jordanians reported that “most people can be trusted” by the end of 2018, according to the World Values Survey (WVS) 7th wave carried out in Jordan by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions.

In previous waves of the WVS in 2001 and 2007, the percentage of “trusting” Jordanians hovered around 30 per cent. The drop from 30 per cent in 2007 to 13 per cent in 2014 and 16 per cent in 2018 cannot go unnoticed. Denial is not an option for strategists, public-policy planners, makers and implementers. 

This decline has implications for all Jordanians, their friends and allies both regionally and globally. Social capital is not just the presence of institutions which fortify a society; it is the glue that holds institutions and people together as a political society through mutually reinforced interpersonal trust among citizens and a two-way trust between state institutions and citizens. 

Interpersonal trust is an essential building block for cooperative and associational life, business transactions, belonging, hope and citizenship-based patriotism. As such, social capital signifies the quality and quantity of a society’s interactions that solidify cohesion and sustainable development. Both are demanded in our society today as economic pressure is encroaching on and damaging the social fabric.

Given this decline in interpersonal trust and public trust in civilian institutions, especially in the current government, which has recorded unprecedented low levels of public confidence according to Centre for Strategic Studies polls, there is a need to reinstate social capital through specific action plans that depend partly on revitalising cooperative culture, organisations, training and accessible cooperative funding.

Cooperatives have been the essence of northern Italy’s economic development and sustainability since 1800s as the recent history of “Cooperazione Trentina” clearly demonstrates. Cooperative culture, organisation and work from production to shelf have made Trentino one of the richest and sustainable provinces in Italy. 

This culture was noted by the authoritative political scientist Robert Putnam of Harvard in his widely cited work “Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy”, in which he studied Italy’s regional governments and concluded that associational life in northern Italy led to its prosperity and democracy compared to less associational parts of Italy especially in the agrarian south.

In Jordan, there are nearly 1,600 cooperatives, of which nearly 1,200 are active and cover various sectors from agribusiness to multipurpose, with a total membership of nearly 145,000, which constitutes nearly 1.5 per cent of Jordanians. Many of them are nominal, not productive, members. In Trentino, by contrast, well over 50 per cent of the population are active, producing members of cooperatives. These socioeconomic networks facilitate the growth and reinforcement of interpersonal trust which leads to more value-based transactions, which in turn leads to sustainable economic development and the evolution of civic norms. The Jordanian cooperative sector needs a major reform to yield sustainable development and social cohesion.

The King goes to Washington, again
Fares Braizat - March 9, 2019

Persuasive engagement with power brokers in Washington is vital to Jordan’s interests, stability and survival. Washington is not the only capital that is important to Jordan, but it is the most important capital. This importance justifies the few visits His Majesty makes every year to engage politicians in Congress and beyond. 

Not a single other country has demonstrated the type of support the United States extended to Jordan over the past 10 years. This week’s visit to Congress is paramount for many reasons. The midterm elections of November last year produced 93 new members to the House of Representatives and nine new senators to Senate. Engaging those newcomers is very important to ensure continued support for Jordan in the next few years. The power of Congress in the American decision-making process cannot be discounted. 

As the first Arab leader to meet congressional members and committees after the midterm elections, the agenda will be expansive and will cover the strategic partnership between Jordan and the United States and the ways to take it forward in light of the existing and emerging challenges to security and stability in the region. Chief among those is the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Jordan’s position has always been of firm and unwavering commitment to this fight and paid its dues in blood and treasure. This commitment will be reaffirmed to old and new members of Congress.  

Jordan’s lobby in Washington is largely dependent on the King’s network and ability to influence the process and its main actors. The King’s effort does not go unchallenged. There are many in Washington, and for different and sometimes contradictory reasons, who would like to see a weaker Jordan in Washington. 

Jordan’s pathway in this environment is charted by its interests and ability to manoeuvre the rough waters of politics on four levels; American internal politics and rivalries, regional competition and its extensions to Washington, Israel’s influence and its impact on the peace process, and finally, the internal dynamics in Jordan.  

As complex as these dynamics are, Jordan has managed so far, with consistent efforts, to have a relatively decent level of influence that can be demonstrated through the continuous flow of aid packages and enhanced military and security cooperation. 

With presence of the Israeli prime minister in Washington at the same time for different motivations and purposes and the intensely-gated ghost negotiations of the “deal of the century”, Jordan’s vigilance ought to be at its highest. Leaks of “the deal” do not reassure Jordan, Palestinians, Arabs and peace-seeking people globally. 

Leaks are indicating an “imposed” take or leave deal. If that comes to be, Jordan’s friends in Washington will have to be prepared and informed of Jordan’s limits. Jordan has a lot of balancing to do between economic hardship, internal political strife, regional political sand dunes and relations with stakeholders in peace in the region. Not every initiative for peace in the Middle East can lead to peace. “The deal” is no exception if it is not properly negotiated and justice is delivered.

London’s transformative economics
Fares Braizat - March 2, 2019

The messages of the London conference, “Jordan: Growth and Opportunities”, ought to reach “all” ordinary Jordanians in their towns and villages, and must not remain largely a “globalised elite” affair. The newly developed narrative presented by His Majesty King Abdullah at the London conference as a step in a process of transformative economic growth is inspiring and builds hope. Inspiration and hope are the two things ordinary Jordanians need the most these days.

The Royal narrative is inspiring because it is built on sound economic thinking of building “projects pipeline” that should prepare projects with bankable legal and financial structuring to be presented to investors. This is a major step forward, upon which one can build hope that strategic infrastructure projects can be presented to potential investors and get implemented without the usual hurdles of unpreparedness and unnecessary obstruction. The investors, whether “impact investors”, “private funds” or international organisations, I talked to before, during and after the conference, are looking for transparency, reliability and the continuity of policies.

The British government and British Ambassador to Jordan Edward Oakden went out of their way to make this conference come to the successful conclusion it has achieved. In partnership with Jordan, they have managed to ensure the presence of vital partners, who have shown in words and deeds a great deal of political, diplomatic and economic support to Jordan. The World Bank’s representative started her speech by saying “Jordan is open for business,” a phrase that was echoed by many high-profile participants. The UN, the UNDP, which champions the Sustainable Development Goals, the International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Fund and many private investment funds were there and showed eagerness to invest in Jordan’s future.

They were reassured by two major factors. The first is the presence and commitment of strong international and regional partners of Jordan, such as the US, France, the EU, the UK, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and Turkey, among many others. The second is the energy of Jordanians, including the vision His Majesty has put forward, the alignment of actors and the driven youth who energised the audience in the hall with their achievements and potential.

As the conference concluded, it was clear to all that Jordan has many wholeheartedly committed global advocates who see a great value for global security in its role and stability. Jordan’s resilience is a testament to the patience and endurance of Jordanians of all walks of life. 

Jordan’s new narrative extends beyond economic transformation to address radicalisation and terrorism. Once again, His Majesty, who was described by the White House a few days ago as “one of our most capable and effective partners in developing credible, alternative narratives... to advance our collective terrorism prevention efforts”, initiated and led the Aqaba process with innovative approaches to ensure global security. Economic prosperity is one of the best ways to give people vulnerable to terrorism a chance to have a good, peaceful alternative.

With all these partners and their relentless support that not only “we can count on each other whatever the weather” in security and economic hardships, but also sew the nexus with education. Jordan’s partners have shown serious support to Her Majesty Queen Rania’s education initiatives, which have turned out to be of great value, especially in the area of professional qualification of teachers. We have an opportunity to expand these programmes to realise long-term economic transformation and growth, achieve security and prevent radicalisation and terrorism.

Contextual economic liberalism
Fares Braizat - February 23, 2019

As the “debate” on what constitutes a liberal or a conservative in the Jordanian context continues, it is essential to engage their stands on the economy, whether real or imagined. On the economy, as conventional wisdom has it, a liberal would support the position that says “government regulation of business is necessary to protect public interest” while a conservative would support the position that says “regulation of business does more harm than good”. These positions largely apply in established democracies, such as the US and Western Europe, despite some notable overlaps.

In our context as it has evolved in the past three decades, some “establishment conservatives”, hand in hand with some “parachuted in” free marketeers and “fonctionnaires”, also known as liberals, “liberalised” the market in an ad hoc fashion. While some established conservatives were not thrilled with the liberalisation, allies of free marketeers won the day and, in the process, markets were opened up prematurely. Price controls were largely lifted without the maturity of anti-trust laws or their implementation. The conditions of the market were not prepared for total, free competition. This has led to monopolies in a few essential sectors, such as energy and some foodstuffs. These monopolies harmed the consumers and we are feeling the heat of overpricing today, more than ever before.

The Jordanian public opinion is not uniform on the issue of private versus public ownership of business. Since 2001, more Jordanians supported private ownership than they did public ownership of business, according to the World Values Survey data collected periodically in 2001, 2007, 2014 and 2018 by the Centre for Strategic Studies and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. Today, 54 per cent of Jordanian adults would support the statement that says “private ownership of business should be increased”, while 43 per cent support the statement that “government ownership of business should be increased”. In times of volatility and uncertainty, these positions change. For example, in 2014 in the heat of the Arab Spring, two-thirds of Jordanians supported government ownership of business as opposed to one-third that supported private ownership. In 2007, when economic growth was more than 5 per cent, it was evident that more Jordanians supported private ownership.

Therefore, one can safely conclude that there is a third of Jordanians who are solid believers in the private ownership of business, even in times of uncertainty. A third fluctuates in uncertain times, otherwise pro-private, and a third is pro-government ownership. Consequently, more regional stability, and probably stronger implementation of competitiveness frameworks and anti-trust laws, will increase public support for more private ownership of business.

When examining attitudes on the profit of business in established free markets, a liberal would say “businesses make too much profit”, while a conservative on the other end would say “businesses make a reasonable amount of profit”. In our context, it is rather inverted. The vaguely-defined conservatives would adopt the position of western liberals, and the vaguely defined liberals would adopt the position of western conservatives, more specifically neo-conservatives.

On personal success, a liberal would be more of the view that “being successful is based upon which family you were born into and where”, while for a conservative “being successful is based upon individual effort”. In our context, the government has been, since its inception, the “liberal” force pushing education and health to compensate for unequal development, while the private sector is a profit-driven “conservative” service provider. The interdependency, interchangeability overlap between label and context’s components, among many other factors, makes the easily thrown labels of liberals and conservatives in Jordan not only impractical, but rather absurd.

One more example that makes the point clearer on the big picture: on the size of government in an established democracy and free-market economy, a liberal would argue “government is efficient and effective”, while a conservative would say “government is wasteful and inefficient”. I wonder what this means in our context. Also, on government’s role, a liberal would say that government aid should go to those who need it most first, and then to others. A check of both camps’ positions in Jordan on the National Aid Fund would reveal whether there is a real meaningful policy difference among them.

Liberal-conservative political labels
Fares Braizat - February 16, 2019

Deceitful labels of liberal and conservative in Jordan seem to be misleading everyone, including those self-proclaimed liberals and conservatives. As a contribution to the debate, this is an attempt to help both “parties” better self-define through a checklist of values and positions that define how liberal or a conservative an individual is on political issues. In the coming weeks, I will also address economic and social values associated with the two camps.

On the King’s power, a conservative, also called a Royalist, would argue that the King should keep his current powers or even have more powers. A liberal would argue that the King has too much power and his power should be reduced. Ironically, it is not the liberal camp that called for fewer Royal powers throughout the recent history of Jordan. On the contrary, it is the Islamists, who cannot be defined as “liberal”, who called for that. When liberals were appointed by the King and held power disproportionately larger than their presence in society, some of the conservatives were calling for less Royal powers. In this context, the liberals were not elected through the existing universal suffrage of voting rights in public elections, and most those of them who ran in parliamentary elections failed to win seats, with miserably low votes.

The King defines himself as left-wing, leaning on health and education, and right-wing, leaning on foreign policy and military. He is a “realist” on both accounts because he wants to ensure the macro safety and security of the country and would like to see good universal healthcare and education. We will return to these in the coming weeks.

Politically, a conservative would generally support military force and strength. In our current situation, a conservative is likely to argue that force is the best way to deal with terrorism. A liberal would advocate addressing the “root causes” of terrorism, such as economic disparity, injustice and inequality, and argue that military force breeds hatred, which leads to more terrorism. In Jordan’s context, it is hard to find any significant difference between the two camps on this issue. On a larger macro level, conservatives would support the position that says the best way for Jordan to remain safe is through increased military strength, while a liberal would argue more democracy and better diplomacy.

Although foreign policy is not a flagrantly clear divisive issue, it does not seem to be a contested issue between conservatives and liberals, such as in the US. In a comparative context, hypothetically, a conservative would be more of the view that Jordan should concentrate on internal issues, while a liberal would argue that Jordan should play an active role in the politics of the region. Probably a more accurate description of Jordan’s foreign policy would be “realist”. It means Jordan acts in ways consistent with its national interests. A more complex issue is the involvement of the US in Jordan: Is the US involvement in Jordan bad or good? Does the position differ among self-proclaimed liberals and conservatives? Liberals advocated stronger relations with totally illiberal neighbours, and were strongly against relations with socially liberal, politically illiberal neighbours! It seems there is little room for manoeuvring and disagreements between both camps on foreign policy issues.

In regard to the position on refugees, the assumption is that a conservative would argue that a growing refugee population is damaging Jordan, while a liberal would argue it is helping Jordan. Can we define the majority of Jordanians who reject receiving more refugees, around three-quarters, or those supporting their return, 87 per cent of Jordanians and two-thirds of Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, as “conservatives”, even when the main reason for that position is hard economic conditions and not stemming from exclusionary or primordially-defined xenophobic attitudes? Furthermore, for those who support receiving more refugees, the main reason is either religious or Arab-nationalistic brotherly motivation, rather than a deeply rooted egalitarian civic value system resembling that of the Swedish/Nordic refugee welcoming, rights-based culture.

While a liberal would argue that the government should loosen the control of the media, a conservative would argue for maintaining that control. Liberals and conservatives alike called for more legal accountability of media, and some self-proclaimed liberals, in particular, attacked their political opponents in mob-fashion personal attacks and blocked people on social media for differences of opinion. It is too early to delineate clear lines between liberals and conservatives in Jordan over political and foreign policy issues.

In practical terms, if liberals are pro-peace with Israel, how can they justify normalisation with continuing Israeli occupation, which asphyxiates basic liberal values of freedom? Moreover, establishment conservatives share similar positions with liberals on relations with Israel. Both have a realist, rather than an ideological approach. These examples of political issues suggest that the labels of liberal and conservative in the internal and external Jordanian political contexts are impractical categories for political identities, and their blanket usage adds ambiguity more than clarity. Both camps are invited to crystallise their political and foreign policy positions so that voters and constituencies can know where they stand.

National revival plan
Fares Braizat - February 10, 2019

Since His Majesty King Abdullah ascended to the throne in 1999, Jordan’s GDP has grown from less than $10 billion to around $40 billion today. This growth has come about despite all regional troubles Jordan had to endure, especially since the financial crisis and later the eventful Arab Spring. This growth has come with a cost of nearly as much national debt. Today, the country is gripped by slow growth, nearly 19 per cent unemployment, pockets of geographic economic marginalisation and a changing generational undercurrent, coupled with deep public disbelief in the government’s ability to deliver the goods.

Against this background, I propose an action plan that may contribute to national revival. It is made up of four pillars: economic with eight national projects; political with two game-changing projects, administrative with one project to merge ministries on a sectoral basis and educational with two projects. 

On the economy, build growth-generating mega projects through heavily-incentivised foreign direct investment. This can be achieved through the following projects:

The first projects is the national rail network connecting Syria to Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt, as well as cities, towns and villages along the way from Ramtha to Aqaba. Second, 10 logistic hubs should be built along the rail to serve industrial and development zones; Al Hassan Industrial Zone in Irbid, Mafraq Development Zone, Dhlail, Muwaqqar, Sahab, Qastal, Queen Alia International Airport, Qatranah, Hasa, Maan Development Zone and Aqaba. Rail and/or bus hubs linking to all cities around the rail line should also be built.

Third, a medical and an entertainment city should be built by the airport to reduce traffic in Amman and cater for regional markets, especially Arab Gulf family tourism in summer. In addition, three residential/commercial cities should be built in Ruwayshid for strategic and security reasons, Madounah/Muwaqqar for the purposes of reducing prices in Amman and Zarqa, where over 60 per cent of the population lives and is stressed by the staggeringly high cost of owning a home and in Qatranah to develop the south.

Fourth, with the production cost of solar power production becoming $0.024 per kilowatt hour (kWh) and storage technology is getting more efficient, the energy sector must be revamped to reduce the cost to $0.14 per kWh for all consumers and subsidise the poor not the electricity. This will revive the economy, as the cost of energy is driving the cost production to an uncompetitive level and the outcome is that investors flee the country, which becomes unable to attract new investors.

Fifth, water desalination, including the Red Sea and brackish water in the Jordan Valley, is now within reach to overcome water shortages because the cost of energy, which is the most important component of water desalination, has come down and there is no reason not to capitalise on this opportunity to make life easier for people and businesses. Also, building a new carrier from Aqaba to Amman via Wadi Araba to utilise the water in power generation benefitting from gravity (Wadi Araba to Dead Dea).

Sixth, the mining industry has been overlooked and underinvested. Jordan falls within the Arabian Nubian shield, which is loaded with minerals. Since it is not properly explored, exploration companies ought to be invited to explore.

Seventh, the Baptism Site should be revived as a Christian pilgrimage destination to receive at least 1 million Christian pilgrims annually by building infrastructure and nurturing the global marketing for it, especially from new emerging markets such as China.

On political reform, building a completive political process and fixing the national identity issue via two steps: First, reforming the regulations of political parties’ financial support to be built around a reward, rather than welfare, system that is based on key performance indicators. This system would reward parties in linear manner; the more a party scores on participation in elections, number of members, including women and youth, geographic representation, seats in elected bodies, coalition building, outreach and recruitment activities, the more public, and possibly private, funding it will get. This model will encourage parties to merge or dissolve as the environment becomes more competitive. Second, reaching an agreement with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to grant all Palestinians in Jordan a Palestinian nationality, excluding Jordanians of Palestinian origin, where they should have a choice over this. This will help Jordan and the PNA internally and in dealing with Israel’s transfer plans.

On administrative reform: Reorganising the government on a sectoral basis can be achieved via the following five measures: Firstly, creating one body for national economy to include trade, industry and investment. Hence, central planning no longer exists, the function of international cooperation should be annexed to the Ministry of Finance and dissolve the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. Second, merging the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Labour into a new body, “development and labor”, to focus on poverty alleviation through job creation, not poverty perpetuation through handouts. Third, creating one body for education with schools, higher education and youth under one umbrella. Fourth,